Oakland holds vigil for fallen officers

March 31, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A vigil was held to honor the four fallen Oakland police officers. The vigil got underway Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. at the Eastmont Mall in Oakland, about a block away from where the four officers lost their lives.

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The prayer vigil was organized by a coalition of Oakland pastors who say that if ever there was a need for prayer for this city, that time is now.

The memorials that overflowed onto city streets are gone now. More than a week after they were shot by a wanted parolee after a routine traffic stop, the investigation into what went wrong continues.

However, the healing for Oakland began in Shepherd Canyon Park in the Oakland hills. Trees planted by Oakland International High School students will grow in honor of the four officers.

The road to recovery will be a long one in the aftermath of the deadliest day in police department history. Grief counselors were brought in on Tuesday to talk to officers already suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

"It's part of the healing process for us because it shows that people weren't just doing it last week before the memorial service, that the support is continuing," said Acting Police Chief Howard Jordan.

The young people doing the planting are all new to the country and this was a way to say thanks.

"In my country we don't have police like this here. They are very, very dangerous," said student Bebe San.

"It is a way to say thank you to those police officers; they dedicate their lives to Oakland's safety," student said Hamza Hachim. .

Around the city, pastors are calling for prayer.

"What happens is hopelessness breeds hopelessness," said Rev. George Cummings of the Imani Community Church.

Rev. Cummings hopes that even in such tragedy, there might be good that comes from it.

"This particular event, this moment has kind of galvanized people and I think we're going to have to see if we can build some momentum and keep it going," said Rev. Cummings.

The message at the vigil was clearly one of hope and healing, but the pastors ABC7 talked to have a specific plan of action on how to improve Oakland in the wake of all the recent violence Oakland has experienced.

They say it is about jobs and resources for young people and they plan to take matters into their own hands. In just one meeting, the pastors had to put the vigil together. They raised $20,000 they plan to put into a new summer job program for young people.

Meanwhile at City Hall, there was a tribute to the four officers. City council members presented the Oakland Police Department letters and condolence books signed by members of the public.

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