Fallen Brothers

A glimpse at mourning in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Inquirer has a rather evocative, somber piece about the ritual of police officers’ funerals in a city plagued by crime. On the eve of a burial for an officer, the department hammers out the details:

Just after sunrise, 10 limousines will fan out through the city. They will pull up to the homes of the pregnant widow, the parents, and any other close relation the family has requested. Officers will stand at attention when the doors open and will escort the mourners to the curb.

An hour later, highway patrols move into position, preparing to close entry ramps. Helicopter pilots, two from Philadelphia, three from neighboring police forces, ready their aircraft. At the cemetery, after the bugler plays Taps, they will buzz over in formation, and one - representing the fallen officer - will pull away and fly off.

Eight pallbearers, who have spent the last week practicing with a casket filled with 250 pounds of barbell weights, take their posts. They have been trained, and will be led, by Ryan Sullivan, a veteran of the war in Iraq, a 23-year-old from Mayfair who came home with two Purple Hearts and a terrible wealth of experience in the proper bearing and carefully synchronized movements required to carry their fallen brothers in and out of the hearse, up and down cathedral steps, and finally, to the edge of the grave.

It’s a short, spare piece that faintly echoes Jimmy Breslin’s famous column about the man who dug John F. Kennedy’s grave, and it’s worth a read.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.