The students of Mann Elementary used their pencils, paper and sincerity to pay their respects, and the comrades of slain officer Brian Huff graciously accepted the youngsters’ hundreds of cards and letters Friday in an emotional tribute at the Detroit Police Department Eastern District headquarters.
The tribute was the result of a school-wide writing campaign in which more than 300 pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Mann expressed their condolences and appreciation for Huff, 42, and the four officers who were wounded in the line of duty earlier this week.
With a painting of Huff displayed next to his picture-framed uniform at the front of a large room, the students marched in and presented their cards and letters to Commanders Steve Dolunt and James Moore, who thanked the youngsters for their show of gratitude.
“This really helps the healing process,” said Officer Joseph D’Angelo, a 17-year veteran of the force and Huff’s partner on the fateful night.
Using a cane as a result of his injuries, D’Angelo said he’s still in a lot pain physically. “The emotional pain is more,” he said. “But having these kids come here to show this kind of support, it really helps you feel better. They are the future.”
Steven Schram and Kaspar Harrison, two other officers who were injured, also attended.
“This really means a lot to us,” said Schram. “We’re here for you guys” Harrison added.
Accompanied by teachers Pam Namyslowski, Julie Beatty and Piper Herbert, whose husband is a Detroit police lieutenant, the Mann students were represented by first-graders Jada Tolliver and Anthony Boggon, second-graders Charity Wallace and Aaron Grandberry, third grader Donell Johnson, fourth-grader Tyler Welch and fifth-grader Angel Walker.
“I can’t begin to comprehend the pain you must feel,” said one letter a student read aloud, while another young letter-reader urged the officers to “don’t give up hope.”
The officers spent time answering the students’ questions and making fast friends. Youthful innocence and the officers’ raw emotions made for a heart-tugging exchange.
“One of the kids asked me if I was on Facebook and he says he wants to add me as his friend,” said officer Brian Glover. “You hear and see so much negative, but having these kids come here to do something like this was very positive. It lets you know that what we do is not all for naught.”