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Tragedy pulls together Laveen community

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“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways – either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.” – The Dalai Lama

David GlasserLast month tragedy struck the Laveen community with the loss of two lives. Phoenix Police Officer David Glasser, a husband and father of two, died in the line of duty when he was shot while responding to a burglary near 48th Avenue and Baseline Road.

The shooter, identified by police as 19-year-old Israel Santos-Banos, opened fire on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 18 when police got out of their cruisers, hitting and severely injuring Glasser. Police returned fire, killing Santos-Banos. Glasser died the next morning.

Throughout the media coverage and social media attention, residents of Laveen found themselves united in shock and sympathy for the family Glasser left behind. Out of the tragic event, an overwhelming since of community grew. Within hours a makeshift memorial sprung up at 48th Avenue and Baseline Road, where candles, balloons and notes were left expressing the community’s grief.

Throughout the week, more and more members of the community stopped by to leave a memento or to shake hands when a Phoenix police officer was standing guard near the memorial. Young children with their parents and long-time residents came and expressed their appreciation for the police force and their grief for a loss in their town, one of their own.

Glasser was a 12-year veteran who served Laveen from the Maryvale-Estrella Precinct. Hundreds of residents in Laveen crossed paths with him during local events. His presence was woven into the fabric of Laveen’s community life.

“It really shows that we have a small town atmosphere here in Laveen. We are different than other parts of Phoenix and we are proud of that,” said Laveen resident Phillip Wooley.

The third annual Star Spangled Celebration in Laveen that honors fallen police officers, firefighters, and military veterans, had one of its largest attendances to date on the Friday evening that kicked off Memorial Day weekend.
“The crowd at our Star Spangled Celebration in Laveen last week was huge, which was an incredible show of support by the Laveen community for our first responders” Councilman Michael Nowakowski said. “It showed that our Laveen and South Phoenix residents stand behind our officers and firefighters and share the pain of those who have lost loved ones in the line of duty.”
On the day of Glasser’s funeral, thousands lined the streets along the path of his final journey. In Laveen, hundreds gathered at 7 p.m. in the Safeway parking lot – just a few hundred yards from the memorial site – to join in a candlelight vigil and the release of blue balloons. Many porchlights shone blue lights. The community came together in sorrow and remembrance.

Around the Valley, fellow police officers and other community’s touched by Glasser’s life also found ways to remember Glasser and assist his family:

 May 20 – money from a coffee mug and flower fundraiser for a fellow officer with a significant illness was shared with the Glasser family.
 May 21 – a carwash raises $41,000
 May 24 – a PLEA-sponsored barbecue raises $270,000
 May 25 – Visitation for Officer Glasser in Glendale with hundreds paying respects
 May 26 – Funeral services for Glasser with thousands in attendance and thousands lining the streets.
 May 26 – in Laveen, candlelight vigil, blue balloons released
 May 27 – Star Spangled Celebration at Cesar Chavez Park in Laveen

While grief lessens over time, let’s hope the community spirit ignited by Glasser’s tragic death will only grow stronger in Laveen.
How to help:
Donations can be made to PLEA Charities and designated for the Glasser family. Mail to PLEA Charities, 1102 W. Adams St., Phoenix, 85007. Direct donations to the Glasser family also can be made at National Bank of Arizona branch.
Donations also can be made to the 100 Club Survivor Fund. 333 North 44th Street, Suite 100, Phoenix, AZ 85008. Donations go to help the families of public-safety workers when tragedy strikes.
Rose Hutchinson Tring is a long-time journalist and owner of AZ Media Maven, a Laveen-based marketing and public relations company. She is also the founder of FinditinLaveen.com, a local business directory and free community calendar. Email her at rose@azmediamaven.com

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