Salute adds 9/11 tribute
Guests at this year's Salute to Law Enforcement will find the police vehicles, technology and officers they've come to expect at the annual event.
But they will get an opportunity to see law enforcement from a different perspective as well, through the display of a refurbished New York City Police Department motorcycle used the day and night of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Harley's emergency lights will be flashing throughout the May 7 event at Willowbrook Mall, U.S. 249 and FM 1960, and an Mp3 device will play recordings of first responders' communications from that day.
"It's a very moving event," said Memorial-area resident Bill Rush, a retired Hedwig Village police chief who bought and restored the motorcycle and agreed to bring it to the salute.
"It's not about me; it's not even about this particular bike," Rush said.
The display instead is a tribute to the heroic work that was done in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Rush said.
The motorcycle will be displayed in the mall. Rush will be nearby to answer questions.
Rush is a member of the Blue Knights, a law enforcement motorcycle club involved in a number of charitable efforts.
The Blue Knights have been taking the restored motorcycle to every venue the group visits for fundraising.
"It's been a big draw," Rush said. "People share memories. It gets very emotional."
Spring Independent School District Police Chief Alan Bragg, the founder and coordinator for the event, asked Rush, his longtime friend, to provide the motorcycle for viewing.
Rush said he appreciates the opportunity to honor Bragg's request and to honor the victims of 9/11.
"We need to be reminded freedom is not free," he said.
The Salute to Law Enforcement was launched in 1995 to honor those in law enforcement and to give community members an opportunity to get to know them in a positive setting.
The program will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.
As of the third week of April, 60 law enforcement agencies had signed up to participate, Bragg said.
On the day of the salute, Bragg expects about 300 law enforcement officers representing 80 to 100 agencies.
Event regulars include the Harris County Sheriff's Department, the Houston Police Department, Harris County Constable's Office Precinct 4 and the Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department. Each tends to bring large displays ranging from command-center equipment to motorcycles and K-9 units.
"They really go all out," Bragg said.
Event sponsors include Sprint, the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce, the Spring ISD Police Department and Willowbrook Mall.
The day will open with a parade of participants marching through the shopping center.
At 11 a.m. the opening ceremony will get under way in the mall near Dillard's with a presentation of colors and a performance of the national anthem by the Freedom Choir from Meyer Elementary School.
The names of Houston-area law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty since 2000 will be read.
The ceremony also will feature a bagpipe performance of "Amazing Grace" and the announcement of this year's scholarship.
A number of law enforcement aircraft flyovers will occur between 12:30 and 2 p.m.
Law enforcement officers will perform child car-seat safety checks from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the mall.
"If the seats fail the test, they'll give the parents a new one and take away the old one," Bragg said. "Last year, we replaced about 100 of them."
Representatives from the Harris County Sheriff's Office will provide free fingerprinting for children.
North Cypress Medical Center will be this year's first-aid station sponsor, and the Willowbrook-area Sweet Tomatoes will provide breakfast for the participating law enforcement officers.
Additional participants include the 6th Cavalry Historical Association, a Houston-based group which will set up World War I and World War II encampments.
"They'll have jeeps, motorcycles, tanks; it's very realistic," Bragg said.
Another added attraction will be the display of new police vehicle models provided by area automotive dealerships.
For more information about the salute, visit www.salutetolawenforcement.org or look for Salute to Law Enforcement on Facebook or Twitter.
Bragg said he plans to post photos of the salute throughout the day on May 7.