TAMPA — The Tampa Police Department gathered Friday with an uneasy gratitude to honor its dead, acknowledging an eerie sense of how fragile life can be.
Had events unfolded a little differently, the color guard, the unmanned horse, and the 21-gun salute at the department's annual memorial service Friday might have signified the passing of yet another officer.
On Monday, Officer Tara Edwards was badly injured in a head-on collision. A witness pulled her from her patrol car moments before it exploded in flames.
"The events of our last few days underscore how our lives can change in an instant," said Chief Stephen Hogue. "We are grateful that no new names were added to the Tampa Police Department's memorial."
But the officers also mourned a fresh grief — the death of Master Patrol Officer Victor Guerrero, killed in an off-duty motorcycle wreck May 1.
Friday morning, Tampa officers listened to a somber roll call of the 26 officers killed in the line of duty. The list started with Officer John McCormick in September 1895 and ended with Detective Juan Serrano, killed in a car crash in February 2006.
Serrano was Mayor Pam Iorio's bodyguard, and she was emotional as she addressed the group.
"We want you to know we will never forget them," she said. "We share in your loss, and we want you to know we will always be part of your extended family."
That extended family is a comfort, said family members of Detective Ricky Childers.
Childers and Detective Randy Bell were shot to death by Hank Earl Carr, an escaping murder suspect, 10 years ago this month. On Friday, Hogue marked that anniversary, calling it "one of the darkest days in the Tampa Police Department's history."
"He was a great man," said Childers' son, Corky Harris. "It's just so hard, you know? It's never easy. I just wish he was here to see his grandkids."
Instead, three grandchildren — Zachary, 10, Lauren, 7, and Chase, 5 — came to Friday's ceremony.
None of them ever got to meet him.