Remembering our heroes

19th annual Project Blue Light Holiday Tree Lighting in Feasterville honors fallen police officers

The lineup: In attendance at the Project Blue Light ceremony were (from left) Rep. Frank Farry, Lt. Michael Pennington, Lower Southampton Township supervisors Deb Kaplan, Ray Weldie and Ed Shannon, Rev. Michael J. Davis, event chairperson Michael J. Hughes and newly-appointed Feasterville Business Association president Fran Mishinkash. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

The bone-chilling air and light rain on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 4, didn’t stop dozens of community members and elected officials from gathering outside the Township Library of Lower Southampton for a more-than-worthy purpose – honoring fallen police officers.

This was the Feasterville Business Association’s 19th annual Project Blue Light ceremony, during which a massive tree planted outside the library was illuminated in bright blue. The tree is meant to serve as a reminder this holiday season to all passersby on Bridgetown Pike to remember those (and their families) who paid the ultimate sacrifice as well as those who continue to put their lives on the line every day to ensure our safety.

Project Blue Light was started 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 was going to place 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 a car accident in 1988.

Though Craig is now deceased, her idea is her legacy. 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.

Emceeing Feasterville’s Project Blue Light event was Michael J. Hughes, who, after the Lower Southampton Color Guard presentation, Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem sung by students from St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School, provided some striking statistics to the crowd.

This year in Pennsylvania, one officer lost his life in the line of duty.

“I don’t know how good or bad that is, but it seems like the numbers are dropping, which I think is good,” Hughes explained.

He also read the names of all police officers who have lost their lives since Project Blue Light was launched, including men from Newtown, Middletown Township and Philadelphia.

In attendance was Rep. Frank Farry, a volunteer firefighter with the Langhorne-Middletown Fire Company, who explained how much initiatives like Project Blue Light mean to the families of fallen officers.

Farry. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

“We’re here talking about the holidays and then we’re going to do some caroling in a little bit and we think about Christmas. But the names that were mentioned here as well as many others of families that have lost a loved one, there’s a father or a mother that’s not going to be celebrating the holidays with their children,” he said.

Farry also stressed the selflessness of the men and women who put on a uniform each day, rarely knowing what dangers they’ll encounter.

“In a moment’s notice, they’re willing to put themselves in harm’s way for a stranger, for somebody in the community here, and that’s one of the most noblest professions you can actually think of,” he said. “Hopefully, one day we’ll be able to be here and talk about a day where no officer has lost their life in Pennsylvania.”

Lower Southampton Police Lt. Michael Pennington also said a few words.

“It’s important, especially this time of year, to recognize the people who protect our citizens, the people that I work with, the sacrifices that were made both by them and by their families,” he said. “When you lose somebody or know someone who died, especially in the line of duty or a violent death, when you go to these police funerals, it’s a very emotional scene. It means a lot to the families when they see events like this.”

Pennington. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

After a special blessing of the tree by the Rev. Michael J. Davis, pastor of Feasterville’s Assumption BVM Catholic Church, the students from St. Katharine Drexel led everyone in singing carols, including “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Silent Night.”

Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

Attendees were invited inside for refreshments and pictures with Santa.

The tree, which is going “green” by using energy-efficient LED blue lights, will remain lit outside the library, 1983 Bridgetown Pike, every night during the holiday season.••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com