Bike riders with the Police Unity Tour stopped at the Harford County Sheriff's Office Southern Precinct in Edgewood Sunday morning, as part nationwide ride that culminated in Washington, D.C., Monday at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
The national ride, which had an estimated 1,700 participants from around the country, is organized to raise awareness of the sacrifices police officers make, particularly those who died in the line of duty.
"It makes me feel pretty proud I've been a police officer all my life," said Edward Hopkins, of Bel Air, one of the six Harford County riders who were among 114 riders on the 280-mile Northeastern leg of the tour that began Friday in East Hanover, N.J., and arrived at the Southern Precinct around 9 a.m. Sunday.
"Officers do put their lives at risk and serve their community, but when police officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice, very few people really know except police officers," said Hopkins, a retired deputy who is public information officer for the Sheriff's Office. "Today's ride is designed to raise awareness nationwide for those who've died in the line of duty."
During about an hour stopover at the Southern precinct, the riders were joined by approximately 75 officers, friends and families of riders and ride support staff.
The Harford County officers participating in the ride placed a wreath next a small display inside the precinct garage, where the riders and well-wishers gathered for the brief ceremony. The riders then left for their next stop, Annapolis, before biking on to the Nation's Capital Monday.
Melissa Ayala, with the Montgomery County Police Department, rode in honor of her husband, Sgt. Hector Ayala, also of Montgomery County Police Department, who died on Easter Sunday 2010. Sgt. Ayala was killed in an automobile accident while responding to backup another officer at the scene of a fight in Wheaton.
"We're doing this in honor of all fallen officers and their children," Melissa Ayala said. "It's very emotional. I can't say it's easy, but it's well worth it. Something I wanted to do."
"It's been a tough ride, but your heart is in a good place and doing it for the right reason," she said. "That's what gets you through everyday."