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Slain MIT officer, other victims honored at vigils

WILMINGTON — Communities around Boston came together Saturday to remember slain MIT Police Officer Sean Collier and the others lost in the past week’s violence.

Nearly 1,000 people filled the Wilmington Town Common Saturday night to honor Collier, who grew up in that community and who ­colleagues said had “a calling” to do police work.

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The memorial began with a police procession from the state medical examiner’s office on Albany Street in Boston’s South End, where officers from around the region joined with State Police, MBTA transit officers, Boston Housing police, and police from several local universities to salute a fellow officer killed in the line of duty.

One Boston police officer estimated the number of departments represented at 25.

Amid a sea of flashing blue lights, officers lined Albany Street wearing black bands over their badges and offered salutes or held their hands over their hearts as a hearse carrying Collier’s body passed by.

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Tyrone Johnson, who has served on the police force at Suffolk University for 25 years, said he did not know Collier personally but said the shooting had caused him and members of his family to reflect upon the dangers of police work.

“We’re all in the same streets, same areas,” said Johnson of campus and municipal police departments. “It’s just that the jurisdiction is totally different.”

Johnson, 46, said he was saddened by Collier’s death but moved by the show of support.

“Through this tragedy, we see the departments coming together as brothers and sisters,” he said.

At the Wilmington Town Common, family and friends of the slain officer came together with police, firefighters, and local residents to pay tribute to Collier and to other officers who provided extraordinary service throughout the events of the past week.

Firetrucks were stationed on the common’s edge, their ladders extended to support an enormous American flag.

Nearby, a woman named Jamie, who declined to give her last name, but was a close friend to Collier’s older sister, tearfully recalled going with the family on a Cape Cod vacation one summer.

“I can vividly remember he was just a little boy at the time, couldn’t have been more than 10,” she said, breaking into tears. “He was just a sandy little boy having fun at the beach. We all got together when we caught crabs, and their grandfather and grandmother cooked them for dinner.”

Standing in a gazebo surrounded by townspeople bearing candles and American flags, Somerville police Deputy Chief Michael Cabral recalled how Collier had come to the department as a college intern and discovered a love of police work.

He had been set to become a Somerville officer on June 3, Cabral said.

“Sean knew that he would be a terrific police officer,” Cabral said. “And he strived, he did everything in his life to become a police officer.”

Collier’s brother, Andrew Collier, told the crowd that in the short time since his brother’s death, the family had learned of many good deeds that Sean Collier had been too humble to mention.

“Sean will continue to live on and his legacy will continue to live on,” he said. “You all will remember Sean. You will all talk about that time that that police officer was tragically killed. And you will remember that, and you will continue to do good to help him. And because of that, these terrorists will never win.”

Also on Saturday evening, about 300 residents of Watertown and some nearby communities gathered on the town’s Victory Field for a vigil to remember the victims of the Marathon bombings.

The vigil, organized through social media by 46-year-old former Watertown resident Ron Conti, was also intended to honor law enforcement officers — including Sean Collier.

“This is one way everyday citizens can really give thanks to everyone that took care of us,” said Mary Labadini, a 56-year-old elder care specialist who lives in Waltham and attended the vigil. “You can’t thank them all individually, but this shows the sentiments of the public are with them.”

Residents at the vigil swapped war stories about the dramatic police action in their neighborhoods, including gun battles and methodical door-to-door searches by SWAT teams. Volunteers from a local VFW Post passed out American flags.

There was no agenda at the vigil; instead, residents spontaneously sang the national anthem and other patriotic songs, recited the Pledge of ­Allegiance, and listened in ­silence as the Rev. Amy McCreath of Watertown’s Church of the Good Shepherd led an impromptu prayer of thanksgiving.

The highlight of the evening was a short speech by Watertown Police Officer Brandon O’Neill, who solemnly reminded the jubilant crowd of the three deaths at the Boston Marathon on Monday and the slaying of Collier on Thursday.

“Remember the MIT officer,” he said quietly, as the crowd around him hushed others. “That’s the most important thing that’s going on today. . . . He will be remembered.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox. Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@ globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielAdams86.
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