Officer Stephen Johns’ Funeral in Fort Washington Today

Shrine to Stephen Johns at the Holocaust Museum (Courtesy: myrick_andy64)

Shrine to Stephen Johns at the Holocaust Museum (Courtesy: myrick_andy64)

(Apologies: I could not find a link to a video of the funeral that worked. Perhaps later…)

As the Washington Post saw it:

The funeral began about 11 a.m., but the first mourners got to the church about 7:30. Johns’s bronze coffin arrived at the church in a white hearse and was carried in by an honor guard of officers from the Holocaust and Smithsonian museums. At 9 a.m. mourners were allowed in to view the body, walking up to two security guards posted on both sides of the open casket. Leading the mourners were Johns’s fellow security officers from Wackenhut security firm. Several officers saluted the casket as they walked by.

Johns was dressed in a cream linen suit, a toy butterfly on the pillow next to him. A recording of local recording artist Jeff Majors’s “Psalm 23” was played as mourners streamed in to view the body.

Over two thousand people attended the services. Johns’ family alone took 18 pews of the 3,000-capacity church. Several of Johns’ cousins (and aunts and uncles) were given plane tickets by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan after they said on Detroit television news that they could not afford to attend the funeral and say farewell.

Johns’ widow, Zakiah, and his son, Stephen Jr., wept continuously throughout the service. They were joined by Zakiah’s sons and Stephen Jr.’s stepbrothers, Jeffrey Pollard and Tysean Lawson-Bey. The couple had just celebrated their first anniversary together only a month before he was mortally wounded. Zakiah had told her pastor hours after the slaying that all she wanted was her husband back. At the close of the service, Stephen Jr. was awarded one of the flags that draped his father’s coffin, along with his stepmother and grandmother. Politics Daily had this to say:

Dr. John McCoy delivered the eulogy. He recalled the day he performed Stephen and Zakiah Johns’ wedding ceremony. The couple celebrated their first anniversary last month. “Stephen and Zakiah vowed to love, honor, and cherish each other, til death do us part,” McCoy said. “Who could have imagined death would come so soon? Who could have imagined Stephen could fall victim to a senseless and barbaric act as he extended a kindness?”

Both whispering and bellowing from the pulpit, McCoy remembered Johns as sometimes shy, but always full of laughter and with a zest for life. But his death, McCoy said, is tragic proof that the end of racism has not yet arrived in America. “There is an element in this country that still desires for the Holocaust to continue.”

He cautioned mourners not to give in to the hate that had taken Johns’ life. Instead, he said, they should rise up against it — not in anger, but in strength. “Silence is not a safe response in the face of racism, sexism, or any of the other isms in this world,” he said. “Silence is unforgivable for those who call themselves children of God or even civilized.”

Family, friends, fellow police officers and Holocaust survivors nodded and cheered at McCoy’s words, embracing the notion that Johns did not die in vain, and that their loss had a greater meaning.

WashPo also reported that other pews were reserved for Holocaust survivors.

Nesse Godin, 81, a Holocaust survivor who volunteers at the museum, said Johns and the other officers would greet them with a kiss on the cheek and a hug each morning when she arrived.

“He was a wonderful man,” she said.

About 9:30 a.m. a caravan of buses rolled up to the church, carrying several hundred staff members from the Holocaust Museum.

Police and security officers also attended the funeral, as well as bigwigs from the government, such as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and former defense secretary William S. Cohen and his wife Janet, who were at the museum the day of the shooting. Janet Langhart Cohen was to mount a one-act play the evening of the shooting about Anne Frank and Emmett Till meeting each other in the next world.

And again, people:

Museum officials set up a memorial fund for the Johns family. To make an online contribution, go to the Johns Family Fund at Checks payable to the Johns Family Fund may be mailed to the museum at 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl. SW, Washington, D.C. 20024. Contributions can also be made by calling 877-918-7466.

~ by blksista on June 19, 2009.

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