MILL CREEK, Wash. – An officer’s home is glowing tonight for the 6th year in a row.
Their Christmas display is unlike any other: 139 candlelit bags line the outside of their home, illuminating the names of every fallen officer in 2016.
“This year a Tacoma officer was killed in the line of duty,” said Commander Steve Rider with Lynnwood Police. “That one hits closest to home, so we’re going to keep it closest to home,” he said, motioning to a spot outside their front door.
It’s not until you start writing the names and learning their stories, said Terri Rider, Steve Rider’s wife, that it really sinks in.
“When we write on the bags, we really reflect,” she said.
They reflect, not just how the officers died, but how they lived: protecting and serving their communities.
“The first year we did it, there were only 70,” said Commander Rider. “I say only, but that’s too many. This year we doubled that now.”
Commander Rider knows tomorrow is never guaranteed in his line of work. His name could be and almost was one of the bags.
“In 1993, I was on patrol 3:30 in the morning. I pulled over a person, who thought he’d rather kill me than go to jail,” he said.
Commander Rider was shot in the neck, the bullet passed just a millimeter from his spinal cord. When he recovered, he went back out on patrol.
“It’s hard watching him go to work every day. It’s definitely hard,” said Terri Rider.
139 officers died in 2016, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. If you include K-9s that died last year, the number jumps to more than 160.
That’s how many bags are outside the Rider home. Each luminaria has a name, a location and an end of watch date.
“If people take the time and look at the bag, and just see who they were and where they worked and how they died,” said Commander Rider. “Really, we want to protect the public, protect people we don’t know.”