‘You can’t describe it’: Colleagues, loved ones pay respects to fallen officers at memorial wall

WASHINGTON — It can be overwhelming to see the thousands of names on the walls at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.

Step foot into the “Pathways of Remembrance” and you’re quickly reminded of the price of heroism when you see the pictures, tributes, and emotions from so many who visit to remember their lost loved ones.

‘You can’t describe it. I mean, you just can’t,” said Daniel Redford, the president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police.

Redford told Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz he had to see the solemn place for himself. Carved into the stone walls are the names of the fallen, each with their own stories.

“Every one of these names is on here because of a tragic situation,” Redford told Sáenz in Washington.

There were 282 new names engraved this year. A majority of them are officers killed in the line of duty last year.

“It’s a living memorial,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Deputy Chief Jacquelyn Hulsey told Sáenz.

Hulsey says she’s lost count on how many times she has visited this place.

“Over my years of coming here, I have watched the names drop further and further down those limestone walls, and that resonated with me,” Hulsey said.

One of the last CMPD officers to be etched in these walls was officer Mia Goodwin, who was hit and killed while responding to a crash in 2021.

“When I think of Mia, I can’t help but think of her family. I think of those small children and her husband, and how dedicated and wonderful of an officer she was,” Hulsey said.

Tracing the names at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial wall

Some of the visitors stopping by traced the names of loved ones. Others left pictures of the fallen, a reminder of the price they paid and the work their colleagues continue.

-Story by Hunter Sáenz

‘How are you holding up?’

Chaplain Richard Hartman is there for police officers in time of need, but he also helps other chaplains prepare to deal with the aftermath of fallen officers, including two weeks ago in Charlotte.

“The real primary purpose of a chaplain is to be the presence of God in the midst of that crisis,” Hartman told Channel 9′s Hannah Goetz at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall in Washington.

“It’s one of those deals where I say, ‘Stay calm and just allow God to work through you.’”

While Hartman often guides others spiritually, this week he is guiding people in a different way at the memorial wall.

“Here you are, do you know where you are heading?” Hartman asks one visitor.

“I primarily help them find the location and the panel of where they are at and where they are going, and the other part of it is I actually walk around and just comfort and [provide] reassurance for what people are going through with where they’re at,” Hartman told Goetz.

“It’s one of those things when you see your name, it becomes real.”

Chaplain Hartman helps a visitor at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial wall

One of the hundreds of people he helped today was a former New York Police Department officer who goes by ‘Taz.”

“I’m 68 years old, the clock is ticking, I said I’ve never been here for the memorial for police week,” Taz said.

Page by page, Hartman helped Taz find the name of a very old friend who was killed during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York City.

“He was a rookie when I left, and he was retiring. He was down at police headquarters handing in his gun and shield, he was going to be a lawyer. He ran from headquarters to the [World Trade Center] towers, was in the second tower when the second plane hit. He was retiring that day,” Taz said.

Taz said it’s important to honor them and their memories and their families because it’s “a brotherhood, it’s a sisterhood.”

“Once a cop, you’re always a cop,” Taz said. “I truly miss being a police officer.”

“I bet it becomes a part of you,” Hartman said in response.

The pair sought out the names of Taz’s old friends, including John Perry.

“You found him, Taz?” Hartman asked.

“Yeah, it was John Perry, the officer that was killed in 9/11,” Taz said. “Glad to show my respect to him, but on the ot her flip side, very sad. [He was] young, very young. I hope he rests peacefully.”

The chaplain told Goetz he will be back in Washington next year for police week, when our local officers will be honored.

He said next year, he’ll be ready to help families again.

-Story by Hannah Goetz

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.

Hannah Goetz

Hannah Goetz, wsoctv.com

Hannah is a reporter for WSOC-TV.