NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Thousands converged on a Queens church Saturday for the final farewell to slain NYPD Officer Rafael Ramos.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, the flag-draped coffin of Officer Rafael Ramos was brought to the Christ Tabernacle Church, at 64-34 Myrtle Ave. in Glendale, Queens, just ahead of his widow, Maritza. She bore the look of grace that comes to one who must be strong for others.
She had to be especially strong for the couple’s two sons, Jaden and Justin, who wore his father’s NYPD jacket. An officer hugged Justin, Ramos’ eldest son, as he arrived at the church.
Thousands of officers were seen up and down Myrtle Avenue, standing at attention when the casket came out. After the casket was placed in the hearse, 500 police motorcycles went by in salute, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
There was also a flyover of 12 helicopters.
“Never have I ever seen anything remotely approaching that at a police funeral,” Lamb said. “All of them are impressive – this one especially so.”
“Deepest, deepest sympathies,” said NYPD wife Nina Ramirez. “My heart goes out to (Maritza Ramos), her sons, her whole family.”
Ramirez joined her NYPD husband and young son in the massive crowd outside the church.
And as 1010 WINS’ Darius Radzius reported, the streets surrounding the church were packed shoulder to shoulder with men and women in uniform.
“It’s amazing, it’s actually a little overwhelming; you feel goosebumps,” said one woman.
Police officers from Connecticut to California, and even Canada, packed countless blocks, watching and listening to the service.
Ramos’ uncle, Augie Romero, himself traveled from Pennsylvania, CBS2’s Ilana Gold reported. He was amazed at the outpouring and kindness of strangers, but was still numb.
“I have no words,” he said. “I’ve been in a trance ever since it happened.”
The sentiment was common amongst numerous officers. Retired NYPD Officer Sal Sorrentino and his on-the-job partner of 20 years were hit hard by assassinations.
“We watched each other’s back, and I’m not going to lie. It was always a fear that maybe we weren’t going to make it home. And this hits home. This hits home,” Sorrentino said. “God bless him.”
Chief Mike Glasser traveled from New Orleans.
“I’ve been a police officer for 38 years, and I’ve never seen a response this large,” he said.
Officer Brent Moss and Sgt. Mike Grap of the Lawrenceville, Georgia Police Department traveled 13 hours to attend the service.
“It’s one big brotherhood,” Moss said.
“It makes you think of what’s going on in this society, and we have to stick together,” Grap said.
More support came from just about every corner, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported. Some workers at a diner where Officer Ramos ate once a week took to the sidewalk for the procession.
“When he looked at you and smiled, you had to smile back,” said waitress Teresa Kranacher. “He was just a very sweet man.”
They all turned out for a man described as devoted to faith, family, and the city he loved.
The Rev. Adam Durso of Christ Tabernacle called Officer Ramos “a man who never had to raise his voice to gain the respect of the room – because his character and his integrity outshined and shouted louder than any words that could have been said.”
Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the memorial service, representing a grateful nation. As 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported, Biden said he never met Ramos and his partner Wenjian Liu, “but I know why they were there. They were there to protect and defend as they always are.”
Photos: Officer Ramos Laid To Rest
Biden was the first of many dignitaries to speak at the service.
“Our hearts ache for you,” he told Ramos’ family.
Biden continued, saying there’s little anyone can say or do that can ease their pain, but he hopes they take solace in the fact that 25,000 members of the NYPD will “stand with you for the rest of your life.”
Biden then turned his attention to Ramos’ two sons.
“You’ve shown tremendous courage and character,” he said, adding that Ramos was very proud of them.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton were also in attendance for the service. Cuomo praised the grace shown by the grieving Ramos family.
“To the Ramos family, I say we thank you, and we honor you,” he said before asking the congregants to give the family a round of applause.
The governor praised officers for an “extraordinary job” as they protected demonstrators protesting over the Eric Garner grand jury decision over the last few weeks.
Cuomo said threats to police are an insult to all New Yorkers.
“And an attack on the NYPD is an attack on all of us,” he said.