Police from all over Bergen County celebrated the second annual Blue Mass honoring law enforcement officers who gave their lives in the line of duty at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Ridgewood Wednesday morning.
Fairview Chief of Police Frank Delvecchio established the mass last year as a way to honor those police officers who have given their lives in service to the residents of Bergen County.
"The mass came about as a way to include God in remembering and honoring those police officers who have served and gave their lives in the line of duty, or have served and passed," Delvecchio, a Ridgewood resident, said.
A lone police officer's hat, a tri-folded American flag and a single red rose were placed on the altar representing the ultimate sacrifice of those 41 law enforcement officers whose names appear on the honor roll.
The mass began with a procession of police honor guards carrying their department's colors followed by a welcome by Chief John Ward of the Ridgewood Police Department. Ward opened the mass by welcoming everyone to the service and stressed the importance of holding the Blue Mass in a different town each year to honor each department and all those in law enforcement who have served, and continue to serve, communities throughout Bergen County.
The pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Monsignor Ronald Rozniak, officiated the service that included police officers from New Milford, Fort Lee, Cliffside Park, Fairview, Fair Lawn, Teaneck, Leonia, Ridgewood, Mahwah, Saddle Brook and other towns throughout Bergen County.
Rozniak dedicated the mass "to those men and women in law enforcement who have given their lives and to those who continue to serve us in our communities."
According to Rozniak, the first Catholic Blue Mass was held in 1934 to acknowledge that "beneath the authority of the uniform is the man who serves."
Bells tolled for each deceased officer as the line of duty death honor roll was read.
Immediately following the mass, an indoor memorial service sponsored by the Bergen County P.B.A. Conference and the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association honoring those who died in the line of duty was held at the Law & Public Safety Institute in Mahwah.
In speaking to the audience of law enforcement officers, elected officials and family and friends, Jack Terhune, President of the Bergen County 200 Club, recalled the death of New Milford Police Officer Ray Woods in a house fire in 1972.
"He ran into a burning house to save a family," Terhune said. "And gave up his life doing so."
Terhune also recalled a poster he once saw about the New York City Police Department.
"It said, 'You won't sacrifice your life for a million bucks, but a police officer does it for a lot less.'"