On April 4, 2009, Pittsburgh experienced one of its darkest moments. In the early morning hours of a cold, rainy, spring day, three police officers lost their lives while doing their job. It is a moment that none of us will ever forget. On that day, a makeshift memorial was created in the neighborhood of Bloomfield — home to one of the officers, Paul Sciullo. Flowers, prayers and remembrances were displayed for months at the corner of Cederville and Liberty as a tribute to all three officers. And, on that tragic day, Father John Dinello of Immaculate Conception-Saint Joseph Parish lit three candles in blue glass candle holders and placed them on the altar. The three candles were lit as a special intention to the three fallen heroes and remained aflame on the altar of Saint Joseph Parish for the next two years.

But, something more needed to be done — something lasting and meaningful to the memories of not only these three heroes, but to all the public safety workers in the city of Pittsburgh. Thus began a community effort to construct a lasting tribute. Local artist James Simon, who grew up in Stanton Heights, was commissioned to create a sculpture of Saint Michael — the patron saint of police officers. Michael is regarded as an archangel in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths — a protector and the leader of the army of God. On Easter Sunday 2010 — the one year anniversary of the tragedy — the ground was blessed where the sculpture would be placed and a goal of raising funds for the memorial was set.

This year, in the last month of the drive, the committee found itself over $20,000 short of reaching its goal. A plea was sent out to the general community to help close the gap and to allow for the planned dedication of a permanent memorial on the second anniversary of the shooting. What happened next is an example of the true spirit of Pittsburgh. The needed $20,000 was not only raised — that amount was surpassed in just the first four days after the plea. By the time of the sculpture’s public presentation, the people of the Pittsburgh region had generously given over $51,000 to the memorial. Enough to pay for all of the costs, establish a permanent maintenance fund and provide insurance. On Monday, April 4, 2011, the Permanent Memorial for the Fallen Heroes was dedicated with hundreds of Pittsburghers participating. You can watch a video of the event below. And, Father Dinello was able to finally extinguish those three candles which had burned for two full years on the altar at Saint Joseph.

If you plan to visit the Memorial, be sure to see it at night! You’ll see three blue lights that shine upon the sculpture of Saint Michael and the shield behind him which is emblazoned with the number 4409 — a day none of us will forget. If you look closely, you will also see that those three blue lights are now joined by one white light: A dedication from the people of Pittsburgh to the people who protect us.