LAGRANGEVILLE, NY (PIX11) -- His death was the result of a tragic accident, but on Thursday, NYPD Officer Michael Williams was remembered for the triumphant life he led.
That remembrance, under dreary, gray skies, began with Officer Williams's grandmother arriving under police escort to St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church.
A person having to bury their child is a frightening enough notion for most people, but to have to bury a grandchild, and an only child at that, was among the many reasons why Thursday's funeral and burial were very hard.
Trying to help soften the blow in whatever way possible were New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, as well as other city leaders. They stood in reverent quiet for a few minutes in front of the church as they waited for the hearse to deliver Officer Williams's casket to the door of the house of worship 70 miles north of Manhattan.
It's the hometown of the 25 year-old former part-time Dutchess County Sheriff's Department officer. He fulfilled his lifelong dream of joining the NYPD last January, and on Sunday, the nine-month veteran was in a police van on its way to a duty detail, when the vehicle accidentally hit a roadway barrier.
The crash, near his home precinct in the Bronx, killed him and injured seven others, including his girlfriend, Officer Francine Del Valle, 29. She was in uniform and standing among the ranks of her and Williams's assigned precinct, the 47th, at Thursday's funeral. Some of the other officers surrounding her showed clear signs of injury.
Inside the church, officers from a wide array of police departments filled the pews to capacity, as the priests, the mayor and police commissioner spoke of how remarkable Williams was.
For example, recently, according to Commissioner Bratton, Williams -- a high school and college basketball standout -- won over a kid who had insulted him on the street while dribbling a basketball, by getting the boy's ball and engaging him in play on the street.
"All those stories are true," said Rev. Richard Gorman, the chair of Bronx Community Board 12, in the neighborhood where Ofcr. Williams served. "He was much loved in the precinct. The ones who had graduated with him from the police academy, they were devastated."
There were tears as Williams's mother was given the flag from her only child's casket. His commanding officer gave a long embrace to her and Williams's father, who is a retired 30-year veteran cop in the Carmel, NY Police Department.
Dutchess County Legislative Chair Robert Rolison is another ex-cop with a son who's currently an officer. In fact Rolison's son Chris and Michael Williams had been sworn in together into the Dutchess County Sheriff's Office before Williams left to join the NYPD. Rolison tried to put into words how deep the loss is to Williams's family, and to the communities where they live and where Williams served.
"It's very emotional," said Rolison. "You know the dangers your son or daughter are going out to face every single day."
Before Williams's casket was removed from the church, to be taken to the family's burial plot, the Police Commissioner Bratton led a long standing ovation. "Thanking him for the life he led," said the commissioner