CHICAGO (CBS) -- Not only family and friends, but also total strangers came out to watch the funeral procession for fallen Chicago Police Officer Ella French on Thursday and pay their respects.
As CBS 2's Lauren Victory reported, they rolled on motorcycles from all over – current and former police officers, and veterans too. And while they were at it, they were joined by some high school students who were quite impressed with the turnout.
"The loss is horrible - the way it went down," said American Lawmen Chicago Vice President Kevin O'Connell. "We're just here - we want to pay our respects in any way we can."
The motorcyclists had their pick of post-up spots along 79th Street where the procession from St. Rita of Coscia Shrine Temple was held, but instead chose Leo High School at 7901 S. Sangamon St. - an all-boys' Catholic high school on its first day of class.
"I'm an alumni of Leo High School," said Tom Russell of the Canaryville Veterans Riders Association.
Soon enough, his much-younger brothers from Leo High School came out to join him. The shirt-and-tie-wearing boys stood next to the men in leather vests. Some shyly asked questions.
"Same thing as a bicycle. You just got to balance the weight," O'Connell told a small, curious crowd about his motorcyle.
While they waited in the heat, a few drops of rain fell.
"They're crying up there for this loss is what they're doing," said Russell.
Finally, the procession began. One of the motorcycles played a recording of Amazing Grace as the cruisers went by. After a while, the group fell silent as everyone soaked it all in.
"It's just amazing how many officers are coming by," said Leo High School senior Cameron Cleveland. "I'm seeing officers from Ohio and Michigan, Indiana."
"I've never seen anything like it before," said Leo High School senior Jakolbi Wilson. I didn't have any expectations as to what was going on or what was happening, so I mean, I think it's great to see other people showing support. It's definitely great that we're out here showing support as well."
It's a lesson you don't want to teach but also can't teach in a classroom. Administrators felt the funeral procession for French was well worth stopping studies, even on the first day of school.
What makes Leo High School an extra-special spot to pay respects is that many of the students are sons, brothers, and nephews of Chicago Police officers. Some even go on to join the department themselves.
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