OLNEY, Md. - Students at a private school in Olney were saluted by Montgomery County police for something the children did outside their school two months ago.
Officers singled out one poetic seventh grader for the words she wrote about that solemn experience.
There was a special assembly at St. John's Episcopal School on Friday. Last December, the entire student body stepped outside their building to watch the funeral procession of a Montgomery County police officer killed in the line of duty.
Noah Leotta, who was just 24 years old, was struck and killed by a suspected drunk driver while conducting a DUI traffic stop along Rockville Pike in Rockville.
Alexandra Close was so moved by the experience that she wrote a poem called "I Am," which made its way to the police department.
Artist and Officer Rose Borisow surrounded those powerfully poignant words with photos of Leotta and presented the portrait to the school.
"I can tell you the moment we all saw you guys standing along the street and saluting us and holding your hands over your hearts, every single police officer was touched by that very deeply,” said Borisow. “It momentarily took the pain away and made us extra proud to be police officers.”
After the assembly, we asked Close to read her poem. They are words that touched a nerve in such a profound and comforting way.
The aftermath of Officer Leotta's death has been tough for his family. They have been to Annapolis pushing the General Assembly to pass “Noah's Law,” which would toughen the punishment for convicted drunk drivers.
"Noah's Law is a simple law that can save lives – these children's lives,” said Richard Leotta, the father of the fallen officer.
The Leotta family said it has been overwhelmed by the community's reaction to Noah's death in so many special ways.
"It brought out what everybody was feeling,” Richard Leotta told Close at the assembly. “You said the right words. You hit the right notes and I thank you for that."
I am quiet,
I wonder if he'll be watching this long procession of his,
I hear the faintest wisp of a voice,
I see the sirens flashing so, so bright,
I want to thank him... but...
I am quiet.
I pretend the bitter wind doesn't affect me,
I feel that it's not working,
I touch the tears off a friend's face,
I worry that nobody is looking,
I cry into myself, fake tears that I don't need.
I am quiet.
I understand this happens every day... but...
I say to myself that it does not,
I dream that nothing has happened, that this was just a fantasy,
I hope he'll have Christmas, wherever he may be.
I am quiet.