Originally published for The Sun Chronicle on Dec. 19, 2016.
As the holidays round the corner, two silver and white ornaments with blue handwriting hang lightly on a large Christmas tree in the lobby of the North Attleboro Police Department, honoring the lives of Auburn Police Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr. and Massachusetts State Trooper Thomas L. Clardy, who were both killed in the line of duty this year.
The two ornaments are not alone.
Accompanying them are 90 other blue, silver and white ornaments, each representing a police officer across the country who violently lost their life in 2016.
“I didn’t want to forget their sacrifice,” said North Attleboro Officer Kristine Crosman, who led the fallen tree project for the station. “They made the greatest sacrifice, and we should honor that.”
Crosman said she came across the idea of a dedicated Christmas tree after seeing various homemade ornaments on Facebook that honored the memory of lost loved ones. Knowing that the holidays are particularly hard for families of fallen officers, Crosman said the ornaments sparked an idea on how during the holidays to include officers who had been killed.
She brought the idea to Capt. Joe DiRenzo, and within days a full-size Christmas tree with 92 blue, silver and white ornaments, each with the name, date and department of a fallen officer, stood tall and proud in the lobby.
“My thought was, when you hear the number (of fallen officers), it’s a big number. But it’s different than seeing it represented,” Crosman said. “Every ornament represents a family or a department missing somebody this holiday.”
Around 137 officers died in 2016, but Crosman chose to focus on those who were killed by the hands of another person – totaling 92 across the United States this year.
“Every time I put another finished ornament in the basket, my heart just hurts,” Crosman said. “Hopefully we don’t have to add any more. There’s still a lot of days in December left.”
A webpage, “Officer Down Memorial Page,” helped her collect the information needed for the project – but the community lent a hand, as well.
Briggs Nursery donated the large tree to the project, and a Friends of Rachel group at the middle school donated a tree skirt and helped Crosman decorate the tree.
And following the holidays, the ornaments will have a second purpose – becoming a lasting sentiment for the families of the fallen. Crosman said the Bay State Lodge chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police agreed to cover shipping costs to send each ornament home to their family across the country.
“The idea of throwing them away after this just wasn’t right,” she said. “I want their families to know that they didn’t die in vain and that we still remember.”