BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The path to East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office Deputy Brad Garafola's final resting place was lined with several thousand people wanting to share in the celebration of his life and service.
The B-Quik gas station, the site of so much pain in Baton Rouge, was transformed into a beacon of hope Saturday afternoon as thousands
lined Airline Highway. Many people came right up to the ever-growing memorial, knelt down, and laid fresh flowers at the base of the cross bearing the fallen officer's name.
It was a send-off fit for a hero as people waited to catch even the smallest glimpse of the horse-drawn carriage carrying the slain deputy's body to its final resting place.
Donna Clarkson said she knew it was important to be there with her family and show support for the fallen deputy.
"To represent him, to appreciate him, and let him know that people love him, respect him and his family," she said.
Throughout the day, countless visitors gathered at the memorial near where the officer lost his life. Some prayed and others were emotional as grief continues its grip on Baton Rouge.
"Everyone is hurting. I don't think it matters what color you are or anything," Clarkson added. "I think every person in the community is hurting. I really do."
The procession wound its way from Istrouma Baptist Church down Airline Highway. It stopped under the huge American flag draped above the route where balloons were released and then possibly the most touching moment of the day came as Sheriff Sid Gautreaux d ropped to his knees and gave a final goodbye to the fallen deputy.
Mike Pope was part of the crowd gathered along Airline. He said the violence has to stop.
"We've lost a lot, Dallas has lost a lot and Orlando has lost a lot," Pope added. "Our country is in bits and pieces right now."
While damaged, some hope this weekend of mourning will be the turning point the city needs to overcome the reign of terror inflicted by one man.
"That's what Baton Rouge is about and to have an outsider try to come in here and try to evoke his feelings on us is just disturbing, but he didn't know Baton Rouge and he tried to take Baton Rouge from us, but we're not going to let that happen," said EBR district attorney Hillar Moore.
"I would like to hope so, you know. We pray for that," added Pope. "I'm sure everybody here is praying for that."
Many say they hope the loss of the three Baton Rouge heroes will help the community somehow move forward better than ever.
Garafola's family participated in a private burial service following the procession.