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Phoenix leaders pause to remember those killed in the line of duty

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PHOENIX – For 20 years now, officials and families have set aside a day to remember city employees who have died in the line of duty, but the loss of a police officer and firefighter on the same day last year made Thursday’s ceremony especially important, Mayor Greg Stanton said.

“On that most tragic day of our city’s history I was also able to say I have never been more proud, more proud of the police officers and firefighters of the city for coming together and showing love and support for the families, each other, and providing comfort for the citizens of the city,” Stanton told those who gathered at the Orpheum Theater.

Seventy-three city employees have lost their lives in the line of duty through the years. A Phoenix Public Employee Memorial was built outside City Hall to honor them, and Thursday’s ceremony included a procession to that site.

Pete Gorraiz, president of the United Phoenix Firefighters Association, said he has attended each ceremony dating back to 1994 and can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a son or daughter.

“I’m sure they think about it every day, but this is an opportunity to come together with others who have experienced the same thing, regrettably, and collectively take a moment of silence and recollect together,” he said.

“This is one of the only cities in the entire country that has a memorial

service for people who were killed in the line of duty, and I think that

speaks volumes,” he added.

Three city employees died in the line of duty during 2013: Brandi Schamadan, a firefighter; Brad Harper, a firefighter; and Daryl Raetz, a police officer. Harper and Raetz were both killed May 19 in separate incidents, while Schamadan succumbed to cancer attributed to her exposure to chemicals while fighting fires.

Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia said Raetz displayed nobility and the ability to face danger during his six years on the force.

“He was not afraid to place his own life on the line to protect others when needed,” he said.

Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Kalkbrenner said Harper’s family, friends and department continue to mourn his loss.

“He made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty to the citizens of Phoenix,” Kalkbrenner said.

Andy Vasquez has been attending the ceremony for eight years since the loss of his 21-year-old daughter Lisa Vasquez, who was working as a police aide.

“They do a really good job of honoring everybody,” he said.