As a black tarp was peeled away Sunday morning from the simple sign dedicating a bridge over the Cross Island Parkway to slain Nassau County Police Officer Arthur Lopez, the crowd of police officers and officials applauded, the department's bagpipers played "God Bless America" and the cop's mother sobbed.
Clutching a photograph of her smiling son, who was fatally shot in the line of duty three years ago, Mirella Lopez was overcome. Her shoulders slumped and tears streamed down her cheeks on what would have been her son's 33rd birthday.
"I'm very proud of my son; all his friends never forgot him," Mirella Lopez, 72, of Flushing, said as she gestured to the throng of officers in their dress blues.
Scores of Nassau police officers attended the unveiling of the official sign naming the Jamaica Avenue overpass "Police Officer Arthur Lopez Memorial Bridge" in Bellerose Terrace -- near where Lopez was gunned down Oct. 23, 2012.
Lopez, 29, of Babylon, approached Darrell Fuller's stopped car near the Nassau-Queens border and Fuller shot him in the chest. Fuller was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) to rename the bridge, which spans the Cross Island near Exit 27E.
Police Benevolent Association president James Carver thanked them for "tirelessly working" on the bill.
"For years to come and long after we're gone, people will drive by this area . . . they will all ask, 'Who was this police officer?' " said Carver. "Well, this police officer was like every other police officer that has served. He was willing to go to work every single day and do his job -- not for fame and glory. Because it was something he loved to do."
Also in attendance were acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter and County Executive Edward Mangano, who said it was a fitting tribute to the "brave officer."
Krumpter said: "Every day Police Officer Lopez went out and every day he made Nassau County a better place. For that, we will never forget his ultimate sacrifice and always be there for his family."
A memorial tree and a plaque also have been placed near the site to honor Lopez, who served with Nassau police for eight years.
Lt. Adam Scheiner, commander of the Emergency Services Unit where Lopez worked, said his memory lives on.
Eliciting laughter, Scheiner told of Lopez, "decapitating" a forklift during training.
Lopez's sister, Charo Lopez, seeing the sign with her mother and father Alfonso, 74, was beaming: "I was like, 'Yeah, little brother! Let's do this!' You still mourn and you still feel pain, but you've got to let the joy take over."