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Thousands gather on National Mall to honor officers killed in the line of duty

For families of fallen loved ones, the annual candlelight vigil is a way to honor their sacrifice.

WASHINGTON — Under the shadow of the Capitol and the National Monument, thousands of local, state and federal law enforcement officers gathered Friday evening with families whose loved ones died in the line of duty to honor them in an annual candlelight vigil.

Every year, names of officers killed in the line of duty are engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Those names were read Friday to memorialize their sacrifice.

This was the 34th Annual Candle Light Vigil on the Mall, and the 16th year for the families of Master Police Officer Michael Garbarino and Detective Vicky Armel, two Fairfax County Police officers who were tragically killed when a carjacker opened fire on them on May 8, 2006.

“It’s just a yearly tradition for us. My dad’s name was inscribed on the wall in 2007 after he passed in 2006 and it’s just become a fixture of our lives every year, every May this is where we are representing his sacrifice and the sacrifice of everyone else on the wall,” Natalie Garbarino said.

The Garbarino family said families of fallen officers are extensions of their family. Tragically, every year new family members join the family they never asked for. Those people are called survivors. Survivors are escorted to their seats with roses and a designated escort in a solemn tribute to their loved ones.

Credit: WUSA
A young survivor walked with her escort ahead of Friday's candlelight vigil.

“It’s sadness in a way because I remember, especially for the first-year survivors being in their position, I remember how we felt that first year and I have such empathy for them, and I know exactly what they’re going through. It’s painful for me personally to see them,” Suzanne Garbarino said.

While it’s a sadness, there is hope both the Garbarino and Armel families said they feel knowing the sacrifices of fall law enforcement officers aren’t forgotten, as they stand alongside officers from Fairfax County Police.

Credit: WUSA
Fairfax County Police officers came to the vigil Friday night to pay their respect to fallen officers.

“I miss my sister, I mean it’s heartbreaking coming here but then you remember her and her sacrifice,” Sandy Munday, Vicky Armel’s sister said. “It’s sad but it’s special. Crying on outside happy on the inside because she’s not forgotten. They say gone not forgotten and they mean that.”

Credit: WUSA
Sandy Munday, Vicky Armel’s sister, said she attends the vigil every year to honor her sister.

May 11-17 is National Police Week. There are events being held across the District throughout the weekend.