Wednesday was an incredibly moving and somber day on which family had an opportunity to pause and remember four men in blue who gave so much.
"We have grown a huge extended family," said Ervin Romans' sister-in-law Erin Rose. Although, it's a family born of pain. "Our family is still having a very hard time and it's nice to see that even after three years, that my brother-in-law, Ervin Romans, has not been forgotten."
Three years ago, what started as a routine traffic stop would end with a convicted felon shooting and killing an Oakland police officer, critically wounding another, then shooting and killing two more when SWAT attempted to apprehend him. Lost that day were Sgt. Mark Dunakin, Sgt. Ervin Romans, and Sgt. Daniel Sakai. Officer John Hege was taken off life support and died the next day.
The memorial service to honor them was fit for a head of state. More than 19,000 people filled Oracle Arena to remember the officers along with law enforcement officers from across the nation. Wednesday's ceremony was meant to not only pay tribute to their lives, but to also mark the official dedication of a freeway sign and bridge naming in their honor. The Keller Avenue Bridge across Highway 580 will now be known as the "Sgt. Mark Dunakin, Sgt. Ervin Romans, Sgt. Daniel Sakai and Officer John Hege Memorial Bridge."
Family members were given the first opportunity to write messages of love on the back, before it is installed. Friends and other officers soon followed. Messages ranged from the joyful, to those of deep sorrow. Officer Hege's parents wrote three simple lines, "Mark, you're loved, remembered, forever, Mom and Dad."
Moving on hasn't been easy. Both the city and the police department are trying to do more with less. "Obviously, three years ago today, we had a lot more resources than we have today. Crime doesn't stop," Chief Howard Jordan said. Neither does the pain of loss. Erin Rose says her brother-in-law Sgt. Romans was special and continues to me missed. "I will always love you. You will always be my big brother and I will see you again soon," she said.
About 300 gathered Wednesday for a memorial service. Earlier in the day, family members placed a wreath at the side of the existing freeway sign to pay tribute.