Jackie Califano, with her sons Michael, 14, Andrew, 6, and...

Jackie Califano, with her sons Michael, 14, Andrew, 6, and Christopher, 11, attend Thursday's funeral services in Seaford for Jackie Califano's husband, Nassau police officer Michael Califano. (Feb. 10, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The three young sons of Nassau police Officer Michael Califano bravely said goodbye at his funeral Thursday even as many of the mourners among the thousands in attendance couldn't control their tears.

"It's not fair," said the Rev. Joe Nohs as hundreds of relatives and colleagues wept during a packed funeral Mass at the Maria Regina Roman Catholic Church in Seaford. "It's not fair that we have to be here."

Califano's middle son, Chris, 11, wore his father's police hat and stood with brothers, Michael, 13, and Andrew, 6, gazing with their mother, Jackie, at six police helicopters flying in formation above the ceremony.

The streets near the church, cleared of traffic before the funeral, were filled with uniformed law-enforcement officers who came by the thousands, from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and even farther afield to pay their respects.

In the bitter cold, the officers stood in formation in rows four and five deep in tribute to one of their own.

Authorities said Califano, 44, of Wantagh, was the 16th Nassau County police officer killed in the line of duty during a traffic stop. He died after a flatbed truck struck his patrol car on the Long Island Expressway late last Friday.

A trucker from Connecticut, who police said fell asleep while driving, hit Califano's car while he was in it, on the side of the highway. Califano was pronounced dead shortly after the collision. John Kaley, 25, is charged with criminally negligent homicide.

Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said the day was filled with "a tidal wave of grief and emotion" for the department of about 2,500 officers.

After a motorcycle escort led the funeral procession to the church, police bagpipers played "Amazing Grace" as Califano's coffin was brought inside.

After the service, "Taps" sounded while Jackie Califano held her children closely, and the family watched as Califano's coffin was placed into a hearse, bound for the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury. There, he was to be buried next to his infant daughter, Michaela, who died of a congenital disease in 2003.

Nassau Officer Kenneth Baribault, who was left partly paralyzed and brain damaged when he was struck by a drunken driver while conducting a traffic stop on the LIE in 2008, broke into tears at the sight of Califano's sons, said Baribault's sister, Danielle Rella.

"When they brought the boys in, my brother started to cry," she said, noting Baribault has a 9-year-old son. "Anyone who's a father would know their pain."

Califano had visited Baribault in the hospital after the 2008 collision, partly because he knew the officer's father, a former colleague at the county correction department, Rella said.

"They're cut from the same cloth. They feel the same pain," she said.

Officials from Suffolk County, the State Police and New York City also attended, as did Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Bishop William Murphy from the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Yesterday, the site of the crash that killed Califano, at westbound Exit 39, was marked with a bouquet of flowers wrapped in plastic, and a small American flag.

With Matthew Chayes

and Andrew Strickler

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