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Police officers, emergency workers killed in the line of duty remembered during ceremony

September 11, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Jim Sprecher performs the bell toll as names are read for those that lost their lives in the line of duty in Washington County.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Larry E. Small and a fellow Maryland State Police trooper were sitting in their cruiser in the median of Interstate 95 in Havre de Grace, Md., in 1987 when an out-of-control tractor-trailer came toward them.

Small, a Hagerstown native, and the other trooper were about to end their shift and were exchanging information with a third trooper when the rig hit their cruiser, killing them both.

Small, a graduate of South Hagerstown High School, was among four state troopers killed in the line of duty who were remembered Tuesday night during a Remembrance in the Park ceremony in Hagerstown’s City Park on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Small’s father, Larry G. Small, was among a group of people gathered near a tree in the park that was planted in memory of his son.

Trees also were planted in memory of the three other fallen troopers, and stones were placed at the base of the trees in memory of the men who served Washington County.

“It’s a good feeling to know he’s still remembered, but it’s still hard to imagine him being gone, too,” Small said after the ceremony.

Also remembered Tuesday was Washington County Emergency Medical Services Director Brigitte Elaine Heller, who died June 28 after a two-vehicle crash on U.S. 50 near Easton, Md.

A bush was planted in the Washington County Emergency Services Tribute Gardens in memory of Heller, and her mother, Penny Mongan, was among a group of people escorted to the bush by Charlie Summers, deputy director of the Washington County Division of Emergency Services.

Mongan moved up close to the bush and helped shovel fresh soil around it.

After the ceremony, Mongan said she was familiar with her daughter’s career but it has been an indescribable experience watching the community pay tribute to her.

“I just wish I could have had more time with her. But we all do, don’t we?” Mongan said.

The ceremony is held each year to not only remember the lives lost in the terrorist attacks but to remember local firefighters, police and governmental workers killed in the line of duty and others in the emergency services field who continue to serve the community today.

A procession of emergency vehicles entered City Park on Museum Drive by passing beneath a large U.S. flag hoisted in the air by emergency response units.

A wreath was laid at a fire-scarred steel beam from the wreckage of New York City’s World Trade Center. The beam was unveiled during last year’s ceremony.

Inside the Washington County Emergency Services Tribute Gardens is a Walk of Honor that pays tribute to living and deceased individuals who have made contributions to emergency services in the county.

Bricks in memory of an individual can be purchased for $30. Fourteen bricks were added this year.

Special music was provided by Barbara Ingram School for the Arts students and Jonathan Grossnickle, a student at the arts school, performed taps.

The dates of death of the four troopers killed in the line of duty were marked as “end of watch.”

The three other state police officers remembered were Clinton Rhodes, a Williamsport native who was killed in 1931; Trooper 1st Class Lauren Ridge, who was shot to death in 1950 on Northern Avenue in Hagerstown; and Cpl. Gregory May, a Hagerstown native who was killed in 1986 in a helicopter crash in Baltimore County.

None of the state police officers could have imagined when they left their homes before they were killed that they would not be returning, said Lt. Thomas Woodward of the local state police barrack.

“But they did not hesitate to make that sacrifice ... when time came,” Woodward said.

During the ceremony, a bell rang 20 times, once each for local people killed in the line of duty in fields like police, firefighting, the military and corrections.

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