Retired cop honors fallen officers on Christmas Eve with over 400 luminaries

Published: Dec. 24, 2021 at 11:55 PM EST
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BANGOR, Mich. (WNDU) - He’s a Pokagon citizen and former police officer, but every year on Christmas Eve, Steve Rider of Bangor Michigan pays homage to those who never made it home.

“This is a luminary and it is meant to pay my respects to every officer, federal, local, state, county, tribal and canine officers that died in the last year,” Steve says as over 400 luminaries fill the Rider family’s front lawn.

Each luminary is made using a paper bag filled with chicken scratch and a lit candle on the inside. On the outside, the name of each fallen officer in the U.S. since last Christmas Eve and the date of their departure.

“We write the name, rank, agency, and end of watch date on every one of these bags. To do that for almost 500 officers this year, it took us a lot of time,” Steve Rider says.

If you ask Terri Rider, Steve’s wife who originally came up with the idea, she says it takes weeks of preparation to set up that is now met with fellow officers and families each year.

“We usually try to be out here until midnight. The officers show up and we have a lot of families that this is now their Christmas Eve tradition. They bring their kids,” Terri says.

It’s a family tradition that Steve and his wife Terri began in 2010, 17 years after Steve, a 26-year police veteran, almost lost his life on the job.

“I was shot in the neck in 1993 on a traffic stop and I think that realism, or realization, that everything can turn on dime,” Steve says.

When asked why the Rider family chose December 24th as the start to what has become a Rider ritual, Terri says it’s their way of saying thank you to those who serve and protect.

“It’s the first holiday families have without their officer, and I feel for them. I wanted it to be this night,” Terri said with tears streaming down her face.

While their efforts to remember others does not goes unnoticed, it’s hard to ignore the hundreds of luminaries that light up the sky this Christmas Eve.

“It’s just a somber evening. It really is. Somebody can’t come by and say, ‘Wow! That’s really amazing, great, and fun.’ It is not. It’s somber, it’s sad, it’s remembrance of those who lost their lives,” Steve says.

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