COLUMBUS, Ohio -- First responders paying the ultimate sacrifice has a true meaning in the city of Westerville. Sunday, February 10 marked one year since the deaths of Officers Anthony Morelli, 54, and Eric Joering, 39. Even though some didn’t personally know these officers, the community was shaken to its core.
"It was a really difficult year. I worked a long time with Eric and Tony, and they're greatly missed,” said the new Westerville Police Chief Charles Chandler.
A year later, the community is still healing. Joering and Morelli were killed after responding to a domestic violence dispute on February 10, 2018.
"I got the blue ribbon on my mailbox and on my tree and it was so sad,” said a long time Westerville resident Rita Westerman. "Where they had the car parked there and I knelt down and said some prayers."
But since the tragedy, the people of Westerville have risen up not only supporting the Joering and Morelli families, but each other. "It's a wonderful community here. I raised my children here. It's stronger than I've ever seen it,” said a Westerville resident Jim Bivin.
Now the city of Westerville is partnering with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to expand adult services in the community. “The intent there was try and take a tragedy and progress as a community in ways to try and deal with the root cause of that tragedy going into the future, so we don't recur this kind of thing,” said Westerville Mayor Craig Treneff.
The state is also donating half a million dollars to build a memorial park to remember all first responders. That’s set to open on September 11, 2019. One thing is for certain the love for those who put their lives on the line every day will forever be in the hearts of the people of Westerville.
"We're all going to come together and move forward and continue to make Westerville a safe place to live,” said Chief Chandler.