It’s been more than seven years since Susan Ciano lost her husband, Glen, in the line of duty after his patrol car was struck by a drunken driver.
Ciano, 53, of Farmingville, thinks about him every day. But no longer trapped by her grief, she smiles when he crosses her mind, grateful for the time they had together.
“My everyday life is not crushed and sad,” said Ciano, whose husband, her high school sweetheart, died in 2009 at age 45. “I have a purpose.”
Officer Ciano was the latest of 22 Suffolk County police officers honored Friday at an annual memorial ceremony at the department’s headquarters in Yaphank.
Susan Ciano was there to honor her husband’s memory.
An active member of the Metro New York chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors, a local chapter of a national group dedicated to helping the families and co-workers of slain officers, she’s channeled her love for Glen in a new direction.
“We’ve walked that walk,” she said of the group. “And now it’s time to help the next survivors.”
The department lost its first officer when it was just four months old. Patrolman John J. Nolan, 27, died of a heart attack after a foot pursuit of a suspect on April 17, 1960.
Since then, 21 more members of the police department have given their lives, including Ciano, a 22-year veteran.
Under gray, sullen skies, friends, family and law enforcement gathered to “remember the sacrifices these officers made while protecting and serving the people of Suffolk County.”
Five of those officers were killed in the 1960s, eight in the 1970s (three of them in a seven-month span in 1971 alone), one in the 1980s, six in the 1990s and two — Ciano and Officer Edwin Hernandez, 44, killed in a single-car accident while on patrol on July 27, 2004 — since 2000.
One, Sgt. Timothy J. Henck, 31, died Aug. 6, 1995, a week after a burglary suspect rammed his patrol vehicle during a pursuit. Another, Officer Henry J. Stewart, 45, was killed on July 11, 1992, after being dragged 500 feet under a car by a 19-year-old man whom Stewart caught vandalizing his neighborhood.
Officer John Jantzen, 32, was shot to death on April 21, 1991, by a man who police said was holding his wife hostage. His brother, also a Suffolk police officer, was first to arrive at the scene after the shooting.
Det. Dennis Wustenhoff, 41, was killed when a bomb blew apart his unmarked car in front of his home in Patchogue on Feb. 15, 1990. His case remains unsolved.
Sgt. Lawrence Devine, 42, died Aug. 22, 1981, of wounds suffered 15 years earlier when he was left paralyzed after being shot in a gunfight while responding to a 1966 disturbance call.
Other officers were killed in accidents or during pursuits, were shot or died as the result of line-of-duty medical episodes.
The fallen are honored in the memorial park at police headquarters that features a monument and individual memorial stones — and by their loved ones, with all manner of tributes.
Susan and Glen Ciano’s daughter, Samantha, 28, tucked a picture of her dad in her bouquet when she married in 2014.
Her godfather walked her down the aisle and her brother Daniel subbed in for the father-daughter dance.
As for Daniel, he’s set to marry in October. His mother, always pressing forward and remaining hopeful, dreams of grandkids.