When an officer dies in the line of duty, survivors say there are wounds left on family and friends that never completely heal.
''I think it's a nightmare,'' said Barbara George, whose husband, Clifford, was fatally shot after responding to a domestic disturbance call in Cincinnati in April 1987.
''It's a nightmare that you don't wake up from,'' she said. ''The bottom line is you're truly alone. You have family and friends there, but they can't understand what you're going through.''
The murders of two Cincinnati police officers have many reliving those moments when they learned their police-officer husbands and fathers would not be coming home. Years and decades pass, but some of the pain remains.
''I remember they took me to my grandparents and told me, and I understood what they meant,'' said Eric Burdsall. He was 5 years old in 1978 when his father, Charles, was shot by a robbery suspect.
''I don't know if you ever really understand it even when you go through it. My dad just stopped a green car because there was an APB (all-points bulletin) out for green cars,'' he said. ''He reached over to get his hat and they shot him.
''He was always getting in trouble because he didn't have his hat. That day, he got in trouble because he didn't have his bullet-proof vest.''
This week, with newspapers and TV news carrying stories about police officers who have died in the line of duty, those old memories are resurfacing.
''I was in police work like my brother, and sometimes I'd call him for advice, and sometimes he'd call me,'' said Donald Lally, a former Deer Park police chief.
''For years after it happened, I'd be working on something and think I'd have to call my brother. Then I'd remember I can't.''
In 1975, Cincinnati Police Sgt. Robert Lally was fatally shot by a store owner. Sgt. Lally and his partner were on routine patrol checking businesses for unlocked doors.
''My brother wasn't even supposed to be on duty that night,'' Mr. Lally said. ''Time does help, but nothing ever wipes it away.'' Mrs. George and her husband were married 20 years. His killer left her with three children to raise.
''When people told me things would get easier, I hated it, because they don't just get easier,'' she said. ''They're different. They may be harder; they may be easier. But they'll always be different.''
She has taken part in activities sponsored by Concerns of Police Survivors, a national organization that works with survivors of officers killed in the line of duty. There is some comfort in that, but ultimately, everyone must work through the grief alone, Mrs. George said.
There will be anger, frustration and sorrow, survivors say. Ultimately, they may never be able to make sense of what happened.
''I don't know what you can say,'' Mr. Lally said. ''Remember they were doing what they really loved, if that's any consolation.''
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