TAMPA, Fla. - Tuesday night, the city of Tampa honored the lives of 32 officers who've died in the line of duty since 1895. This year, the feeling of loss was especially raw as they also honored Master Police Officer Jesse Madsen, killed just two months ago.
"It's so fresh, it's difficult," said Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan. "How many times can you hear taps and 21-gun salutes? It just seems like it happened yesterday."
March 9, Madsen's police vehicle was struck by a wrong-way driver on I-275. He'd driven into the deadly path in a final attempt to protect other drivers. The 45-year-old was a husband and father of three, a U.S. Marine combat veteran and a seven-time recipient of TPD's life-saving award.
"Am I surprised that at the end, that's how he went out? I can't be surprised because that's who he was," said Madsen's older brother, Jay Madsen. "I'm very proud of him, you know?"
Tammy Krikava lost her father, Officer William Krikava on January 1, 1965.
"I was only 7 when my father died," Krikava said.
He worked on President John F. Kennedy's motorcade when he visited the city and he taught her the meaning of courage. 56 years later, events like this help ease some of the pain.
"It was very hard over the years," Krikava said. "But you come to accept it and move on. Coming here, it's nice to hear his name. It makes me proud to know people still remember him."
Mayor Jane Castor, the former chief, said that after each one of these annual memorials, she prays that they will not have to add one more name.
"Many choose a life of service," Castor said, "but few enter into that service realizing that it may cost them their lives."
Last year, 295 law enforcement officers in the U.S. died in the line of duty. 182 of them died of COVID-19, contracted while on the job.
It's a vocation requiring quick instincts, poise, patience, empathy, bravery, and for these 32 Tampa police officers, it meant sacrificing all of themselves to protect their communities.
"They serve as an inspiration for all of us to keep moving forward and keep fighting the good fight," Dugan said. "It's important that we live a life that is deserving of their sacrifice."