AFFTON, Mo. (KMOX) – It was designed to be a small, brief ceremony for the family and friends of slain St. Louis County Police Officer Blake Snyder outside the Affton precinct.
Instead, hundreds turned out for the vigil that had to be moved down the street to Affton High School, where mourners filled the stands of the football stadium.
“I cried,” admitted Jan LaVar, who organized the ceremony via social media when she learned about the expected turnout. “I cried because I did not think that I was going to get this kind of response. I knew Affton would support (it), but I didn’t expect this.”
What began as a prayer vigil for Officer Snyder evolved into a celebration of the service that all first responders provide for the community on a daily basis. An impromptu chant of “You are the best of the best!” swept through the large crowd as police officers, firefighters, EMT’s and other first responders in the crowd were asked to step onto the field and be recognized.
“It is because of each and every one of these men and women standing here tonight that we can go to sleep safe and wake up and know that each day we’re going to go home safe,” LaVar told the crowd as they erupted into long and sustained cheers.
But at the heart of the ceremony was the memory of Officer Blake Snyder and concern for his wife and their 2-year-old son, as remembered during a touching speech from St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar.
“My goodness, what a beautiful young family,” he said. “What a sudden loss, what a loss to the police department, what a loss to the community.”
He later assured the crowd that Snyder’s family will be remembered and support by the department in perpetuity.
“That family, I assure you, will be supported,” Belmar vowed. “Not only through Backstoppers, not only through other mechanisms that we’re able to do in the next few weeks and months, but that family is being supported tonight by what we see here.”
Following a prayer for Officer Snyder and his family, mourners lit candles, held a moment of silence, and then released hundreds of blue balloons into the October sky.
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