The line started with the arrival of the remains of the slain Chicago Police commander, now remembered as a devoted cop who was even more devoted to his family.
“It’s sad that this is what it takes, but look at how this city came together,” Jim Flanagan said from the stoop of his Bridgeport home, surveying a line of people stretching around the block to pay their respects to Cmdr. Paul Bauer.
“It takes a special person to do that,” Flanagan said.
He was among the thousands of Chicagoans who flocked to Nativity of Our Lord on Friday evening, to bid farewell to Bauer at the church where he was a regular with his family on Sundays.
“The healing process starts today for CPD as well as the family,” police Supt. Eddie Johnson said. “This is going to be a difficult two days, but we can get through it.”
Bauer’s wife Erin, on what would’ve been their 16th wedding anniversary, arrived at the visitation with their daughter Grace along with a police escort, passing under an American flag draped from a firetruck ladder hoisted over 37th Street.
Blue ribbons tied around just about every tree, light pole and fence post memorialized the beloved commander who was shot dead Tuesday by a suspect during a foot chase in broad daylight outside the Thompson Center. On Friday, portraits of a beaming Bauer were posted in dozens of residents’ doors and windows.
Law enforcement officers from across the Chicago area joined the throngs of civilians who lined up outside in the cold, some for more than three hours, for the opportunity to salute Bauer.
Community activist Andrew Holmes joined dozens of volunteers doling out hot chocolate and coffee to shivering mourners queued up for a quarter-mile down Lowe Avenue.
“Commander Bauer’s family is going through heartbreak. This city is heartbroken. But we are here for one another,” Holmes said.
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News of Bauer’s death hit particularly close to home for Carolyn Wortham. Her son Officer Thomas Wortham IV was fatally shot in the line of duty in 2010 on the South Side. She said it was important for her to be there for Bauer’s family.
“We’re all family,” she said.
Gov. Bruce Rauner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former CPD Supt. Garry McCarthy were among officials who attended the wake. Many of the civilians who came out didn’t know Bauer personally but they said they admired what he represented.
“The guy is a hero. We should all be so thankful,” Bridgeport resident Tom Wisen said. “It makes me feel sick. I can’t imagine what the family is going through.”
Sharise Clare and her 7-year-old son Terrence took a bus from Bronzeville to attend the wake.
“I wanted my son to see what it means to serve your community. He’s someone for my son to look up to,” Clare said. “He’s someone for all of us to look up to.”
Bauer’s funeral, which is closed to the public, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, with interment at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Alsip.