City prepares for unprecedented memorial

March 26, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Preparations and one final run through were underway Thursday night to honor four fallen officers that are now considered heroes across the nation and across the world. Friday's memorial is expected to be a very fitting and moving tribute.

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There was one run through Thursday night for the memorial for the four fallen Oakland police officers. Dignitaries speaking include Senator Diane Feinstein and California Attorney General Jerry Brown. They are expecting so many people they even have plans for a spillover crowd at the Oakland Coliseum.

Oakland Police say they have been overwhelmed with offers from across the country from people wanting to give their time and talents to Friday's funeral. Officers say coordinating the event has been tough, but it's also been a good distraction.

"I'm working 16-18 days it does keep my mind off what is going on, and I'm sure this weekend I'll probably crash and the grieving process will start for me," said Officer Jeff Thomason, the Oakland Police spokesman.

There were four officers who came all the way from Sumter, South Carolina to help the Oakland officers face their grief. This is the farthest anyone from their department has traveled for a police funeral.

"We passed around a hat throughout the department. Everyone was doing $10 donations or whatever they wanted to," said Detective Robert Richburg, from the Sumter Police Department.

They even brought a gift, a Sumter police blanket, for the Oakland Police Department. However, they realize their blanket, and their faces, could get lost in all the well wishes on Friday. Officers are here from as far away as Boston, but they still felt it was necessary to come.

"Just short of New York, you don't hear about four officers being lost in one day from one department," said Detective Richburg.

The Sumter officers got a little lost looking for a place to deliver their blanket and they ran into Lt. Demetrio Lazares. The men ended up talking for a few minutes and the lieutenant was visibly touched.

"It says a lot for what people are thinking right now and feeling with us right now," said Lt. Lazares. More than 19,000 people are expected to fill the Oracle Arena. The service will probably last for several hours. When the caskets are brought out, officers from an army reserve unit in Dublin will fire a 21 gun salute from WWII Canons.

And when the formalities are over, the officers will forever be remembered in the Oakland Police Department lobby. A worker sandblasted their names into a memorial wall there on Thursday; it's the most ever to be added in one day.

Last minute details were still being worked out. There was talk of two more guest speakers for the service which delayed the printing of the program. All of the preperations took place while viewings of the officers took place.

ABC7 will carry the service live on ABC Channel 7 and on, starting Friday at 11 a.m.

Traffic information:

Traffic around the region is expected to be seriously impacted by the funeral on Friday morning and afternoon. The exact procession routes have not been announced by authorities, and some processions will begin early in Tracy, Castro Valley and Danville.

The CHP expects the worst backups on Southbound I-880 between West Grand Avenue and Hegenberger Road from 8 a.m to 11 a.m. Both directions of that section of I880 will also be backed-up from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m.

The CHP may be closing some ramps along I-880, I-580, I-680 and State Route 238. The funeral starts at 11:00 a.m., and the doors at Oracle Arena are open to the public at 9:00 a.m.

BART will run longer trains to accommodate the crowds.

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