As she approached the podium, the audience rose.
As she began to speak, it seemed as though the multitude was scarcely breathing.
For the next 20 minutes you could hardly hear a pin drop — save for echoing sniffles — throughout the Coliseum in downtown St. Petersburg.
The YMCA's 10th annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast was the first opportunity for many in the audience to hear from Lorraine Yaslowitz, the kindergarten teacher whose husband, St. Petersburg Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, was murdered by a fugitive in January.
And while there were poignant moments that brought tears, her speech was more about life than loss.
Sprinkled throughout the program were a host of ministers of many hues and faiths and a student from Gibbs High School. They offered prayers for our nation and armed forces, individual responsibilities, strong kids, strong families and strong communities.
On a dais that included a host of city leaders, the person who inspired us most was the keynote speaker.
"This (life) is just a temporary journey," she said of dealing with loss.
For a few minutes, the day-to-day issues that dominate local government debate seemed terribly trivial.
Rather than talk about what divides us, she focused on our similarities.
The day wasn't just about the Yaslowitz family and loss, but about moving forward after tragedy.
"You give and you take away," she said, "and there's a risk in that."
She said she holds onto faith, realizing that enduring this walk could be what it takes "to make me stronger."
In a room filled with city, county and state representatives, the real leader in the room was the widow of a fallen officer.
She talked more about her many blessings. Her words revealed a vision of hope for her family and the community — and her giving spirit.
In a speech that could've easily been about sorrow, Yaslowitz focused on building a greater community.
She's leading by example.
Earlier this year, Yaslowitz set up the Partners for Life Foundation to support families, like hers, who have lost loved ones because of acts of violence.
After 30 years without losing an officer in the line of duty, St. Petersburg lost Yaslowitz and Sgt. Thomas Baitinger, who were murdered in January while assisting in an attempt to arrest Hydra Lacy Jr., who himself was shot and killed in one of the darkest days in the city's history.
The foundation was the brainchild of Yaslowitz as a way to help others while keeping alive the memory of her husband and fellow officers Baitinger and David Crawford, who was shot and killed less than a month later.
Yaslowitz and her late husband often ran together to stay in shape. They also competed in local races.
The foundation raised $20,000 during the inaugural Partners for Life Police Appreciation Run in May. In that race, 1,170 athletes competed to commemorate National Police Appreciation Week.
Yaslowitz and Chris Lauber, a local race organizer, want to make it an annual event.
The next 10K race is scheduled for May 6.
Sandra J. Gadsden is an assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8874.