The recent tragedy in Westerville is a dramatic reminder of how quickly lives, families and communities can be forever changed.
The first Westerville police officers to be killed in the line of duty, Eric Joering, a 17-year veteran, and Anthony Morelli, who served 30 years, were shot after responding to a domestic-violence incident. According to Westerville police Chief Joseph Morbitzer, the officers arriving at the residence were met immediately with gunfire.
The two fallen officers had nearly 50 years of combined public-safety service to Westerville. The community they served was devastated but quickly went to work to begin healing. GoFundMe accounts were immediately initiated for the families. Police officers and dispatchers were provided time to mourn and join their families while their duties were completed by volunteer staff from other central Ohio communities.
Support for the Westerville community poured in from across the country. I am especially grateful and proud that members of the Grove City Division of Police were permitted to provide immediate help for officers and dispatchers.
Blue ribbons were fastened to trees, poles and porches, while blue lights illuminated many residences and businesses to express the community's immense sadness.
Westerville's schools were closed for the day of the funeral and thousands lined the streets for the two-hour procession that carried the fallen officers to and from the funeral service. Our Division of Police joined nearly 3,000 patrol vehicles from throughout Ohio and surrounding states.
Our community's heartfelt sympathies go out to the families of Joering and Morelli and their grieving community. We must, while consoling the officers' families, remember to recognize the emotional toll on the Westerville staff and safety team members.
On behalf of our community, we personally thank and appreciate our Division of Police members for their selfless dedication to easing the pain of our sister-community.
We must remember how fragile life is and that this terrible tragedy could happen in any community. We are never really prepared to deal with such an event.
Fortunately, we live in a safe community, thanks in no small part to our diligent Division of Police team. They train regularly to handle diverse safety situations and remind us that we can help by notifying them immediately when we see or are made aware of potential criminal activity. Their guidance is to not be concerned about reporting a potential problem; they are never troubled to find that a call results in a no-action report.
It is so important to act if you become aware of potential criminal activity -- immediately contact the Grove City Division of Police at 614-277-1710 or in an emergency call 9-1-1.
Thanks again to all of those in the safety forces for keeping our communities safe.
Mayor Richard L. "Ike" Stage is serving his fifth term as mayor.