'It's a lot of different emotions' as fallen Fargo officer enshrined at national memorial
WASHINGTON— A solemn silence that fell over the roughly 30,000 people on the U.S. Capitol lawn Monday, May 15, was broken only by the sound of bagpipe music as survivors of fallen peace officers began to walk toward the 36th annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service.
Among the hundreds of survivors was Rachel Moszer, the widow of Fargo police Officer Jason Moszer.
Dressed in a simple black dress and dark sunglasses, she escorted their two children, Dillan and Jolee, toward reserved seating where President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence would appear to thank the survivors of 144 officers who were killed in 2016 along with 70 officers who died last year from injuries or illness brought on by their service during 9/11.
After police responded to a north Fargo domestic dispute-turned shootout Feb. 10, 2016, the suspect who was holed up in his home shot Moszer in the head with a rifle round. The 33-year-old officer, a six-year veteran of the department, died several hours later in a Fargo hospital. The shooter, Marcus Schumacher, killed himself.
Also among the crowd at Monday's memorial service were Moszer's parents, Dave and Karen, and 39 Fargo police officers, including Chief David Todd.
Todd said his department is still coping with the loss of Moszer as best it can, more than a year later.
"There are things about this that have pulled our department together, made us closer as a department," Todd said. "It's pulled us really close together with the Moszer family. They'll be a part of our department forever."
Attending the service was Drew Schwan, a paramedic with F-M Ambulance and a longtime friend of Moszer's. The two were childhood friends and attended U.S. Army basic training together. Although it's been a year since Moszer's death, Schwan said Monday's memorial helped bring an element of closure.
"It just helped everything come full circle," he said. " It's etched in history now what he ultimately sacrificed and it's not just a local remembrance. It's part of our history as a country now, along with the other hundreds of names that were put up this year."
The memorial marked a first for Trump, Pence, Homeland Security Director John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
"We are honored by your presence and our nation's capital is better for you being here," Pence told the survivors and roughly 20,000 peace officers who attended in uniform.
While Pence subtly brought up Trump's campaign promises to law enforcement for more respect and better resources, the president was direct in his keynote speech.
"I will always support the incredible men and women of law enforcement as much as you have always supported me—and you did, bigly," Trump said.
Trump said the country is in an era in which police have suffered through unfair defamation, hostility and violence.
"It is our duty as a people and as a nation to prove worthy of their sacrifice, and that begins with showing our police the appreciation they have earned a thousand times over," Trump said. He said it is his duty to "keep America safe" from crime, terrorism and all enemies. Attacks on police must end now, he said.
Sixty-four officers died from gunshots in 2016, and 21 of those were ambush killings.
"I will make it a personal priority of my administration to ensure that our police are finally treated fairly with honor and respect as they deserve," Trump said.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., attended Monday's event, as she does nearly every year. She said she was pleased to hear the president honor surviving family members.
"This is a very important event," Heitkamp said. "I know it can happen just so quickly that an officer can lose their life. I know every person that is a wife or a husband or spouse, when their loved one walks out the door to work in law enforcement, they don't breathe completely until they get home."
As Moszer's name was read during the ceremony, Fargo officers stood at attention and his family pinned a memorial in his honor to a wreath at the front.
While Heitkamp was North Dakota attorney general, the state Peace Officer's Memorial was begun. She has worked closely with law enforcement throughout her career, and was pleased to hear Trump's pledge to increase respect for law enforcement.
"It was a very nice and important memorial and it's time to have that conversation about building respect and honoring law enforcement officials," Heitkamp said.
After Trump's speech, he took an impromptu trip onto the lawn to shake hands with many of the survivors. During that time, Heitkamp was quickly able to speak with the Moszer family on the lawn.
Monday's memorial and a vigil held on the National Mall on Saturday, May 13, are a part of National Police Week, May 14-20, which was started in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. During the week, the Moszer family were invited to different conferences and events that help surviving family cope with their loss. Todd said the events help all of the Fargo Police family cope with their loss.
"We're all different individuals and we all deal with things differently," Todd said. " I think that is important for me to recognize as a leader that people are going to carry their feelings or hold their feelings individually. I give them that space to do that."
Moszer's name is etched in marble on the National Peace Officer's Memorial wall, which includes nearly 21,000 other names of officers who have died in the line of duty since 1791.
"You're in the heart of the country, where the country was born and you see the Capitol in the background and you recognize the significance of that hallowed ground and the law enforcement memorial and how special that is," Todd said. " It's a lot of different emotions. You're sad. You miss him. But at the same time you're proud he's being represented appropriately, in the proper way with that ceremony. It was special for his family. It was special for us."
Airfare and hotel expenses for Fargo police staff, about $65,000, was raised by the community and included a $31,000 donation from Gate City Bank.