The thin blue line is a representation of fallen officers.

Kayla DeLotte, Reporter

Local law enforcement has suffered a significant loss. Over the past year, Florida has seen several tragedies, most notably the Pulse nightclub shooting and Hurricane Matthew. As a result of this, Governor Rick Scott wanted to recognize First Responders by dedicating a week to them. First Responders are people designated or trained to respond to an emergency. He proclaimed the week of January 9-13 as First Responder Appreciation Week for the third year in a row. This happened to coincide with Law Enforcement Appreciation Day (L.E.A.D), which is January 9.

On Jan 9th – the first day of ‘First Responder AppreciationWeek’- tragedy struck when Master Sergeant Debra Clayton of the Orlando Police Department (OPD)  was shot and taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. The suspect, Markeith Loyd, had a warrant out for his arrest because he was accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and shooting her brother, which was the reason Master Sergeant Clayton initially approached him.

“We’re [law enforcement community] all heartbroken,” said School Resource Officer Heather Smart. “As a mother and woman, it’s especially hard.”

Loyd fled the scene and exchanged gunfire with an Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) captain before he got away. A manhunt began immediately after to find him, when another tragedy struck. Deputy First Class Norman “Big Norm” Lewis of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office was struck and killed by a van, while on his way to assist in the manhunt.

“I felt really bad that someone felt the need to kill someone who was only trying to help other people”, said sophomore Rajpaul Sodhi.

These deaths had an even heavier impact on the community for students with parents who are police officers. It reminded them of the threats their parents face on a daily basis and has saddened them tremendously.

“It scares me thinking my dad won’t come home one night,” said senior Holly Bertholf  whose dad is a police officer. “This is a call for change in the community. We shouldn’t take life for granted and we need to unite.”

Master Sergeant Clayton’s funeral was held on Saturday, Jan. 14 at First Baptist of Orlando. Orlando Police Chief John Mina and U.S Rep. Val Demings, former police chief of Orlando, spoke at her funeral and went into detail about the contributions she made to the community she served. Chief Mina promoted Master Sergeant Clayton posthumously to lieutenant. Deputy First Class Lewis’s funeral was held Sunday, Jan. 15 at the same location. This funeral was a celebration of life and had many deputies sharing their stories of “Big Norm,” allowing those who did not know him, understand the kind person he was. Sheriff Jerry Demings awarded Deputy First Class Lewis with the Sheriff Office’s purple heart for his service.

Chick-fil-A showed its appreciation for Deputy Lewis’s service by setting up a “missing man” table. This table had the containers of his favorite meal, a fruit cup and 12-count nugget. In addition, there was a bible, candle, rose, and empty drink cup.

The suspect was caught on January 17. This date was even more significant because Lieutenant Clayton’s badge number was 9; she was killed January 9 and the suspect was captured 9 days after the murder. In addition, Loyd was arrested with Lieutenant Clayton’s handcuffs and brought to justice. People were cheering in the streets and thanking police officers, showing their relief, while his arrest was being processed. The community and the families were able to find some closure after his capture.