Ceremony honors area’s fallen police officers

Prince William County Police Officer Dan Murphy, a former gym teacher with a masters degree in education, said Sept. 11, 2001 was the catalyst that spurred his decision to become a police officer.

He was teaching basketball fundamentals to a class of sixth graders in Fairfax County when the jets hit.

“I remember another teacher entering the gym and telling me that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center,” Murphy told an assembly at the Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building during a ceremony Thursday evening to remember fallen police officers.

“I remember the principal of my school crying as we gathered for a staff meeting and watched the events that followed,” Murphy said.

“I remember the feeling I had inside of me when I watched all those people who were trapped inside the towers. I wanted to help them so badly,” he said.

“It was at that point that I made my decision to apply to become a police officer here in Prince William County,” Murphy said.

Murphy said that while others understood his motivations to be a police officer, they were hard pressed to understand why he would give up a cushy teaching job.

“I remember, on more than one occasion, during the hiring process, hearing, ‘Let’s get this straight. You’re a school teacher. You’ve got your summers off and you want to be a police officer?'” Murphy.

Like Murphy, who had brothers-in-law who were police officers, Alex Dominguez told those gathered at the event sponsored by the Prince William Police Academy Alumni Association, that he grew up in a house where the men belonged to the police department.

“I had some uncles that were New York City police officers. I look back at the people who were role models for me, and instilled in me the words ‘honor,’ ‘integrity’ and the belief that one man can make a difference, every day when I put on my uniform, I keep that inspiration in the back of my mind,” Dominguez said.

Also during the ceremony, D.A.R.E. students and essay winners Phillip Adkins, 11, of the Pennington School and Bruce Facundus, 11, of Henderson Elementary School read from their compositions about lessons learned from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

“I’m glad this program is in effect for my classmates, myself and the children who will be going into the fifth grade next year,” Phillip read from his essay.

“I feel that I now have the sensibility and courage to turn down drugs,” he read on.

Phillip said he also learned about anger and stress management and conflict resolution in the D.A.R.E. Program.

Bruce said he gained the tools to refuse drugs.

“Taking drugs can ruin your future,” Bruce read from his essay.

“When people ask you to take drugs, you can say ‘No’ and walk away,” Bruce said.

At the end of the ceremony, police officers, sergeants and recruits carried roses up on stage and placed them beneath nine lights to remember slain officers and the dates of their deaths: Trooper Jackie M. Bussard, of the Virginia State Police, May 5, 1970; Officer Paul T. White, Prince William Police, Oct. 27, 1973; Trooper Johnny R. Bowman, Aug. 19, 1984; Sgt. John D. Conner III, Manassas City Police, July 24, 1988; Officer Philip M. Pennington, Prince William Police, Nov. 22, 1990; Trooper Jose M. Cavazos, State Police, Feb. 24, 1993; Special Agent William H. Christian Jr., the FBI, May 29, 1995; Detective John M. Gibson, U.S. Capitol Police, July 24, 1998, and Officer Marlon F. Morales, Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Transit Police, June 13, 2001.