For the fallen

Feasterville Business Association’s 18th annual Project Blue Light honors late police officers

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

A special salute: Lower Southampton Township chief of police John Krimmel (center) poses with members of the Feasterville Business Association during the 18th annual Project Blue Light Holiday Tree Lighting, which honors fallen police officers. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

It’s easy to take the little things for granted. For example, having all loved ones accounted for at the table during Christmas dinner.

This holiday, as countless families of police officers and first responders sit down to eat, the expected sense of cheer will be replaced by stress and worry. Crime never takes a vacation, and many of these individuals will be forced to trade the warm comforts of home for the streets, not knowing the types of dangers they’ll encounter. But that’s just part of the job.

While most will return home, ready to spend a few hours assembling the slew of toys delivered by Santa, some will not. Some will pay the ultimate sacrifice.

On the evening of Monday, Dec. 10, dozens gathered in the brisk cold outside the Lower Southampton Library, 1983 Bridgetown Pike in Feasterville, to honor local law enforcement who lost their lives for the sake of the community.

This was the 18th annual Project Blue Light Holiday Tree Lighting, hosted by the Feasterville Business Association, which dedicated and illuminated a tree with gleaming blue LED lights. Throughout the holiday season, passersby on the busy road will be able to view the symbol of remembrance.

The ceremony began with an address by Michael Hughes, FBA member and event chairperson, who provided attendees with some background on the history of Project Blue Light. The initiative began in 1989 by Dolly Craig to honor the memory of her late son-in-law, Philadelphia police officer Daniel Gleason, who was killed in the line of duty in 1986.

Craig informed Concerns of Police Survivors Inc. that she would be placing two blue lights in her window during the holiday season — one in memory of Gleason, and one remembering his wife Pam, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1988.

Though Craig is now deceased, her legacy lives on. Project Blue Light has grown into a national program and burns bright in the hearts of 10,000 surviving families of officers killed in the line of duty as they rebuild their lives.

Hughes solemnly read the names of all area law enforcement who lost their lives since Project Blue Light began. He then shared some statistics. So far in 2018, 135 officers have been killed on the job (a decrease of 2017’s total of 137), as well as 25 K9s. There have also been 13 9/11-related deaths this year.

Lower Southampton Township chief of police John Krimmel gave a short and sweet “thank you” to all present, followed by a few words from Rep. Frank Farry.

“I have the honor of not just serving as state representative for this community in Harrisburg, but serving as a volunteer fire chief just down the road in Langhorne,” Farry said. “I’ve missed many a holiday dinner when that fire pager went off. I’ve had many sleepless nights, as have the men and women that serve. Additionally, while everybody is home celebrating their holidays, our police officers and EMS providers are out keeping our communities safe.”

After much anticipation, the tree was lit to the sounds of cheers, the dark grounds of the library revealed in the blue light. Once the applause died down, Rev. Michael Davis, pastor of Assumption BVM Catholic Church in Feasterville, and the Rev. Herb Phillips, retired from the Trevose United Methodist Church, offered special blessings.

“As we gather here tonight, it’s so very, very important to be mindful of all of our first responders, especially those who step into harm’s way. Those who step into the danger instead of running away from it to be helpful to those who find themselves in dire situations,” Davis said.

Phillips, a police officer of 28 years and active fireman for 50 years, shared a similar sentiment.

“I’ve been in your boots,” he said to officers in attendance. “I know where you stand, I know where you’re coming from. I can remember many times, on Christmas Eve especially, leaving my family, going out on the street.”

When his family asked him why he was leaving to protect the bad people, Phillips informed them he was going out to arrest the bad and protect the good. Reflecting on those years, he explained how his children had one warning before he left — “Please don’t shoot Santa if you see him breaking into our house.” Phillips always assured them he wouldn’t.

“I want you to remember that this is a dangerous world. When you do go out, many of you, in fact most of you, are going to return home. Unfortunately, way too many are not going to return home,” he said, adding how his training officer was killed during his first week on the job. “Kiss your family. Give them a hug goodnight. Let them know that you’re going to be out there doing your best.”

Before heading inside for light refreshments, guests were invited to sing along to holiday favorites like “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night” with the St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School Choir. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com