Over a thousand officers from South Carolina to Washington, D.C. packed Glad Tidings Church in Morehead City to pay their last respects to Enfield Police Officer Tonya Gillikin who died Monday during a traffic stop.
Her mother made the painful walk inside clutching family members and hanging on to memories. The pastor said it was family times like Christmas and Thanksgiving that meant the most to Gillikin.
"Those were such special times to Tonya that you could say that Tonya's favorite place to be was home with family," said pastor Don Wolford.
The Enfield police chief said it was like a hurricane and a tornado hit the 11 member force all at the same time. He hopes something good comes out of the stormy emotions.
"We shall return to our community with more dedication, commitment and determination to protect and serve, so when that glorious day comes when we reunite with our sister, she will embrace us and say 'Well done,'" said Enfield Police Chief Carl Gregory.
Dozens of patrol cars left fromEnfieldto attend the funeral. It was a three and a half-hour trip for many and even more for some. It started before sunrise.
The procession of cars met in Enfield to make the trip together. Most of the men and women in the procession did not know Lt. Gillikin; they did not have to. She was a fellow police officer, one who gave her life protecting the public.
"They'd do it for us," said Weldon Police Chief Karl Clark. "They're comrades."
"We're a team," said Capt. Lawrence Solomon of theDepartment of Correction. "It's different departments, but we're still a team, and we stick together. A bond's been broken."
Hundreds of officers were able to attend the funeral because of co-workers back home who covered their shifts. Small town police were especially grateful to be able to mourn in peace.
"Northampton County is looking after my town today while I'm going about these duties, and I appreciate that. I work in a good county where everybody looks out for each other, so it's a good feeling to know that my town is being watched after while I'm gone," said Jackson Police Chief John Young.
The people of Enfield sent their respects as well.
A small group of well-wishers was in place as the people who protect them made the long trip to Gillikin's hometown, Morehead City, for the funeral.
"We support our police department," said Vernell Pittman, an Enfield resident. "We have a beautiful police department, we have a new chief and everything, and they are wonderful. And the girl that got killed, she was a beautiful child."
When the slain lieutenant was laid to rest, the people she protected remembered what she did. But perhaps no one appreciated the sacrifice she made quite as much as the officers who face the same risk every time they put on their badges.
In all, 48 different departments were represented at Gillikin's funeral.