A long-scheduled charity gala to benefit families of police and fire personnel killed in the line of duty took on a renewed poignancy with Tuesday's shooting death of an NYPD housing cop.
Memorial photos of officers and firefighters lined the corridors of the Waldorf Astoria in midtown for the Answer the Call New York Police & Fire Widows' & Children's Benefit Fund 30th anniversary dinner Thursday night.
The event was on track to raise more than $2.7 million, said spokesman Mike Loughran. The group has already committed $25,000 to the family of Officer Randolph Holder, of Brooklyn, who died after being shot in the head in East Harlem by a fleeing suspect.
"There's a powerful tradition of remembering and standing by the families, no matter what. And that's what tonight is about," Mayor Bill de Blasio said during the gala's cocktail hour, where widows gathered with politicians and donors.
The event, which drew roughly a thousand people to the grand ballroom and surrounding rooms, also brought together some old foes.
De Blasio chatted briefly with former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, whom de Blasio criticized throughout the 2013 mayoral race to succeed Kelly's boss, Michael Bloomberg.
"We talked about the [Holder] tragedy. We talked about the officer's father, who consoled the cops. It was pretty remarkable," Kelly said, referring to Randolph Holder Sr., a police officer in his native Guyana.
The organization has given out more than $130 million to about 600 families of firefighters, medics and cops killed in the line of duty, making annual payments to each of about $4,000 to $6,000, Loughran said.
Widows and their families were honored guests at the gala, said Kelly, calling the event "a real bonding experience."
Among the widows benefiting from the charity was Carmen Suarez, whose husband, Ramon Suarez of the NYPD, died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The officer's photo and story were displayed at the Waldorf.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Holder's slaying illustrates how important the group's work is.
"We're never free from that worry that one of our firefighters or police officers won't come home some night," he said.