The casket carrying police officer Enmanuel “Manny” Familia, who drowned while trying to save a teenager, was brought to a church for his funeral in a horse-drawn carriage Thursday in Worcester, Massachusetts.
The 38-year-old died a hero Friday as he tried to rescue 14-year-old Troy Love, who was visiting from Virginia. The boy also drowned in Green Hill Pond.
"Manny was different. Wonderful, kind, dedicated to everything and anything he did. Regardless of whether it was difficult or easy, you already knew that smile was going to shine through. He was the light of our family with incredible passion, kindness, and a fierce personality," Familia's older brother, Elvin Familia, said while giving the eulogy. "My brother loved hard, very hard. He didn't know any other way."
"To the family of Troy Love, the young man who also lost his life last Friday, we are very sorry for your loss. We feel your pain and share your emptiness. Our families are here to support you, continue to heal together, as we both lost big part of our family."
Thousands of police officers from around the country lined the streets of Worcester in tribute to Familia, some traveling from as far away as Ireland. The city opened Polar Park for people to view the funeral service outside of St. John’s Catholic Church in anticipation of somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 officers.
Familia's death is a powerful lesson in self-sacrifice, said Rev. Diego Buritica, the priest who presided over the funeral Mass.
“He didn’t think about the consequences of jumping into that lake,” Diego said inside the church, which was packed with family, police officers and dignitaries including Gov. Charlie Baker. “He just did it.”
Fallen Worcester Police Officer Manny Familia's Funeral Program and Prayer Card
Familia's brothers, Elvin and and Eric, delivered a eulogy at the funeral, giving a glimpse into the abbreviated life of the man who was born in La Vega, Dominican Republic, and moved to Worcester as a young boy.
"He was a big brother like no other, He was a big brother to a lot of us - even older - they consider him a big brother, just by the way he carried himself. Just by his protective nature," his younger brother, Eric, said. "We don't know why he was like that, that was just the way he was. It was something that really resonated with me because it showed how much he loved me, how much he loved every one of you, especially his brothers and sisters in blue."
"There's nothing that hasn't been saved between my brother and I. We were best friends. All I can say is, I love you. I'll continue your legacy. And we'll, we'll keep your memory alive," Familia's older brother, Elvin, said. "Rest in paradise. No worries. Your family will be in great hands. I promise you I will look after them just like you did. Till we meet again."
Familia leaves behind his high school sweetheart and wife of 22 years, Jennifer, and two children, 17-year-old Jayla and 13-year-old Jovan. City and state officials have ordered flags flown at half-staff in his honor.
"He brought so much joy to our lives in so many different ways, but nothing brought him more joy than is most precious possession - his children," Elvin Famlia said.
Addressing Jayla and Jovan directly, Elvin said, "I know today doesn't make any sense, and probably never will. But one thing can be sure - your dad loved the two of you more than life itself. There was nothing he wouldn't do for the two of you. God called upon your dad for special detail up in heaven that only he can fill. Manny left us with incredible responsibility to watch over you. That's exactly what we'll do."
Familia was a five-year police department veteran. Worcester Police Chief Steven Sargent last week called the loss of Familia “overwhelming.”
Familia graduated from the city’s Doherty Memorial High School in 2001, attended Quinsigamond Community College and was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Anna Maria College.
He was a member of the department’s tactical patrol force and crisis invention team, and had been training to join the SWAT Team. Off-duty, he was on the department’s basketball team and represented the department at charitable events.
"Manny loved being a police officer. He took great pride in serving his community. He took great pride of serving this community," Elvin said. "He was most proud of completing three different police academies, and yet he still had a lot more to accomplish."
The procession began around 9 a.m. Thursday, making its way from Mercadante Funeral Home & Chapel on Plantation Street to St. John’s on Temple Street. The procession paused at the doors of the Worcester Police Department along the way, where officer Familia's casket was transferred from the white hearse to a horse-drawn carriage.
Hundreds of police officers and their motorcycles lined the roadway leading up to the Worcester Police Department, where black bunting has hung since the day Familia died.
The officers saluted, then lead the horse-drawn carriage to the church to the somber sound of bagpipes. After the 10 a.m. service, a procession escorted the body of Officer Familia to St. John’s Cemetery. The burial was private.
Many roads closed at 8 a.m. in preparation to bring Familia's body to the church. Crowds of people lined Plantation Street, near UMass Memorial, to pay their respects as the white hearse left the funeral home. The procession was lead by police motorcycles and followed by a line of cars, including members of the Familia family.
Raymond Delisle Worcester Archdiocese said Thursday the Familia family will be supported by the parish and the community during this difficult time.
"They're a member of a family in the parish," Delisle said. "There are parishioners and friends who will be available to help them to mourn, to help them to grieve, but also to help them to get beyond this, to be able to also focus on on the good parts of man's life and being able to look to the future and what that will bring. And then the community as a whole, obviously has, as you're seeing and saying today, it's just been an outpouring of support for the family."
At his wake on Wednesday, a steady stream of police officers, firefighters, first responders and Worcester residents paid their respects to Familia at St. John's.
"To see Manny, a man of faith as well, enter into waters, not thinking of himself, but thinking of those boys out there, those children out there, just simply acting out of heroic love for another human being, it speaks volumes to this man of faith," said Father Jonathan Slavinskas, the Worcester Police Chaplain.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.