BRADLEY — First responders from numerous local law enforcement agencies gathered in the auditorium of Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School.

The Thursday morning First Responder Prayer Service event, sponsored by Grace Community United Methodist Church and spearheaded by Peggy Sue Munday, of Bourbonnais, was held two weeks after the shooting at the Comfort Inn in Bradley which killed Bradley Police Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic and critically wounded Officer Tyler Bailey.

Bailey remains in critical condition at a Chicago area hospital, according to Illinois State Police on Tuesday.

The church extended an invitation to employees of the Comfort Inn who have been struggling with the incident.

“This has been a very difficult time for them as well,” Munday said. “I have reached out to them personally and they are still tearful, as well, regarding what they had to experience, so we will remember them in prayer.”

An opening prayer was led by the Rev. Steve Hudspath, who shared words of thanks to the first responders who help their community in times of crisis. When concluding the prayer, Hudspath held up a medal of Saint Christopher, a saint who offers protection, while at the podium.

“I’ve been given a Saint Christopher medal to substitute for Tyler Bailey’s medal until he can get his medal back,” he said before praying over the medal.

FIRST RESPONDERS

Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey shared his thanks for first responders and drew from his personal experiences. He began by stating “how fortunate we are in our community to have such an amazing group of first responders.”

He then urged the audience to continue to keep Bailey and his family in their prayers during this time of recovery. He also requested continued thoughts and prayers for the family of Rittmanic, “as they continue to manage through this difficult time.”

Downey transitioned to what it means to be a first responder, and the different commitments the job requires. He noted that when many think of the term “first responders,” they picture the “Thin Blue Line” or the “Thin Red Line” that symbolize police and firefighters, respectively; but there is more to the flag.

“People do not hear about the ‘Thin Yellow Line’ which represents dispatchers; the ‘Thin Gray Line’ that represents corrections; and the ‘Thin White Line’ that represents EMS, doctors and nurses,” he said. “While we are represented by different colors on a flag, we are all part of the same team with the same goals.”

Downey’s remarks were followed by Bradley Police Chief Donald Barber, who thanked the surrounding law enforcement communities that helped the Bradley department over the last few weeks. First responders from different communities throughout the county helped fill in and patrol while many of Bradley’s officers were helping to plan and attend the services for Rittmanic.

“Our local law enforcement communities really stepped up to the plate during these trying times,” Barber said. “They stepped up to the plate, they did not ask for any extra pay. They worked double shifts to protect us and to protect you. Again, I can’t say enough for their tireless efforts to get this done.”

He also thanked the community for their support during the difficult time and asked that the audience continue to pray for those impacted by the tragedy.

“Officer Bailey is holding his own, and we need the community’s prayers more than ever for a speedy recovery,” he said, concluding his message with gratitude for his department.

DEFINING JUSTICE

State’s Attorney Jim Rowe spoke of justice. Justice, he admitted, was a topic he initially thought would be easy to discuss, but became more layered when questioning its definition.

“The events of the last few weeks have shown me that it’s a definition that remains elusive,” he said. “It’s a word that we probably each hold our own idea of what justice is.”

He expressed that “justice has no bounds,” and that this has been exemplified by the work of Bailey and Rittmanic as they “believed in helping people and they believed in helping them make better decisions in their own lives.”

Rowe referenced Rittmanic’s funeral services in which the Rev. Ted Perry described how the sergeant was still trying to help someone make a better decision during her last moments.

“It was tough to imagine that, even in those final moments, Marlene was still fighting for some semblance of justice,” he said. “It’s tough to see that perspective; it’s tough sometimes to find that light in one of the county’s darkest of days. But justice demands that we look for that light in these dark times. Justice demands that we be more like Marlene.”

He said that it is always important to see and seek justice, and it’s something that “we owe to our community and to Officer Bailey and Sgt. Rittmanic.”

Rowe then closed by reading a poem written by Rittmanic in 2001 about protecting the blue line. This poem was prominently featured next to her portrait during her funeral service.

At the conclusion of the service, Chaplain Bob Anderson invited all first responders in the auditorium to line the front of the stage before giving the final prayer.

“When their eyes grow weary, and their bodies cry for rest, give them a strength beyond themselves to see the day through,” he prayed.