Charo Lopez put her pointer and middle fingers gently to her lips and pointed emotionally to the sky as she heard the name of her late brother, Nassau police Det. Arthur Lopez.
Affectionately known to friends and family as Artie, Lopez, of Babylon Village, was shot and killed Oct. 23, 2012, during a confrontation with an ex-convict near the Nassau-Queens border.
Nearly nine years later, Charo Lopez and her mother, Mirella Lopez, honored the sacrifice of Artie Lopez — and the 39 other Nassau police officers who were killed in the line of duty — during the department's annual memorial ceremony.
"Today is very unique. Everyone has memorials. But this memorial is more family-based," Charo Lopez said. "Because it's our officers. It's the men and women who worked with each and every officer that has passed here. It's more intimate and it's more loving."
The somber hourlong ceremony, held on the front lawn of the department's Mineola headquarters, came with police pageantry.
The Emerald Society Pipe Band played "Amazing Grace," while a bugler performed Taps as a police helicopter rumbled overhead. Wreaths and floral tributes were placed in front of the police memorial, which has grown from a rock monument in 1982 to include six tall slabs of black concrete, with facial etchings of the fallen officers cast onto bronze plaques. The deaths date to 1925.
Each of the names of the fallen officers was read aloud, along with 82 current or retired officers and department civilians who died in the past 12 months.
The names included Erick Contreras, an active-duty Nassau police detective who died from cancer linked to his service at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Contreras' name will be added to the memorial wall next year, Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.
"We understand the risk. We know what we signed up for, whether we're fighting criminals or an invisible virus," Ryder said. "Those 40 heroes knew the risk and proudly served the department and the people of Nassau County. This is why it is so important that we never forget them.
"Along with the oath to defend the Constitution. we also took an oath that we promised to look out for one another and stand by each other. The best way we can honor our fallen is to keep their spirit and sacrifice alive."
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told the hundreds of family members in attendance that "you don't grieve alone. We are here for you."
A year after the 2020 memorial ceremony was held — without the public because of the pandemic — this year's event had the spirit of a family homecoming, with family members greeting officers they had not seen in nearly two years.
"It's a beautiful reunion between police and family," Mirella Lopez said.
Ingrid Shea of Oyster Bay returned to the memorial Thursday to honor her late husband, Lt. Michael Shea, who died in April 2017, succumbing to brain cancer contracted during his service at Ground Zero.
"This was his family," Shea said. "He talked about them every day about how proud he was to be a police officer in Nassau County."