The April morning when NYPD Officer Marc St. Arromand died, Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital filled with his grieving family and highway patrol buddies.
His wife rushed in and collapsed upon seeing his body. Police officers filled the emergency room hallways as they shed tears, told stories and tried to make sense of his fatal motorcycle crash.
On Wednesday, Arromand's police unit, Highway Patrol Unit #2 in Brooklyn, presented the hospital staff with a "thank you" plaque for all they did to comfort his widow, loved ones and themselves.
"There were so many random acts of kindness that day," said Unit #2 Commanding Officer Capt. Daniel Shouldis. "You made something that no one wants to ever endure just a little more bearable."
St. Arromand, a veteran officer and married father of five from Elmont, was killed as he drove his motorcycle to work early April 11. The 42-year-old highway officer lost control while traveling on Laurelton Parkway in Queens and was thrown from his motorcycle, and then was struck by a car, police said. He was pronounced dead at the Valley Stream hospital.
For his wife, Cecilia Jackson St. Arromand, Wednesday's ceremony was difficult because she had to return to the place she received "the worst news ever." She walked into the hospital conference room, and immediately walked out. But she came back, wanting to thank the hospital staff.
"I'm so grateful, but this puts me back to that day," said Cecilia Jackson St. Arromand, 30.
Tears in her eyes, a crumpled tissue in her hand, she sat in the front row surrounded by her five children, the youngest of whom recently turned 1.
That April morning, she said she came to the hospital not knowing Arromand had died. The news left her unable to stand. Camice Allen, a nurse manager, brought her a chair and sat with her a long while trying to calm her.
The hospital's medical director, Dr. Joseph Marino, came in and she collapsed into his arms. He recalled he could see "the personal tragedy — a young mom, who had just had the recent birth of a child, a family of five children. We felt we couldn't do enough."
Bambi Campbell-Henry, an assistant nurse manager, brought her water and tissues.
"I held her, sat with her, stayed with her," Campbell-Henry said.
Joan Creighton, director of nursing quality, sat and talked with her for four hours. They talked about children, Creighton said.
"She was really worried about how she would go on," said Creighton, herself the mother of a police officer. "I told her that you never really lose someone. They go on in your heart."
The hospital opened up a conference room for the gathering police officers so they could grieve in private. Staff brought in food, water and coffee.
"They were constantly checking up on us," said Unit 2 Officer Ralph Gaston, who had known St. Arromand for 15 years.
After Wednesday's ceremony, everyone in the room spent time with Arromand's children, who wore T-shirts bearing their father's badge number of 23063.
The kids — Sa'niyah, 11; Cayla, 10; Michael, 5; Daniel, 3; and Jason, 1 — played with the officers' cellphones. They ran around, jumped around and ate ice cream.
Michael already wants to follow in his father's footsteps, his mother said. He's already dressing up in police gear.
Sa'niyah, remembered how her father rushed to make her birthday party, making an appearance between working a double shift.
"I didn't even know he was coming," she said. "When the door opened, I jumped on him."
These days the kids seem to have an endless number of police uncles, their mother said.
For Cecilia Jackson St. Arromand, the grieving has moved into a new phase. For months after her husband's death, she said she was in a blur. Now the reality of his absence is sinking in, she said.
"The fact that he's not here physically," she said, "it kills me every day."