Representatives from law enforcement agencies throughout New Jersey gathered in Ocean Grove today to honor fallen police officers and add four names to the list of those killed while on duty.
Christopher Matlosz, a Lakewood police officer and Manchester resident who was during what began as a routine stop, was among those honored.
Family members, including Matlosz' fiance Kelly Walsifer, fellow officers and government officials gathered in the historic Great Auditorium to remember those who gave their lives.
"This was probably the best ceremony I've been to since Chris died," Walsifer said. "And I plan on coming back to it every year. It was very emotional."
A police honor guard performed "Amazing Grace" in front of spectators and hundreds of seats covered with black cloth and adorned with the names of New Jersey's fallen officers dating back to the mid-1850s.
"For me, it means to keep remembering his name and also to remember all the other fallen brothers and sister of New Jersey, so they are never forgotten," Walsifer said. "It's amazing that they remember all of these officers."
Among the speakers was Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who said that these officers and their efforts will not be forgotten. Gov. Chris Christie was scheduled to speak but was not in attendance.
"We will always in our hearts remember your sacrifice," she said in remarks delivered during the ceremony. "Words are not enough."
In addition to Matlosz, Trooper Marc Castellano of the New Jersey State Police, Officer John Abraham of the Teaneck Police Department and Officer John Cortazzo of the N.Y./N.J. Port Authority Police Department were honored.
Black and white portraits of the officers, completed by Toms River Officer Christopher McDowell, were positioned in front of the stage where officials and singers remembered the fallen.
"It's definitely very sad," Adam Matlosz about losing his brother. "But he's being treated like a hero and he deserves it. I'm very overwhelmed by the situation."
Adam Matlosz said that the months since his brother's death have been difficult, as his killing came shortly after the death of their father. But seeing the law enforcement community come together has helped him cope, he said.
"I'm going to come to as many [ceremonies] as I can," Adam Matlosz said.
Lakewood Chief of Police Robert Lawson said that attending the ceremony was "deeply moving."
"Even though it's been five months, once you get past the initial shock of it, it's still with you as much today as it was on Jan. 14," the day Matlosz was killed, he said. "It brings everything back. All of the emotions well up and come back. It's tough to get through days like today."
Though Matlosz is gone, Lawson said that he and his department remember the officer each day.
"I'm sure that they carry him in their hearts and their minds everyday when they go out on patrol," he said. "In my office I have a tribute to Chris that I see every day."
When the chief comes into his office each day, Matlosz is "the first thing that comes to mind," he said. "I'm sure the other officers are the same way."
Lakewood Officer John Novak worked a midnight shift with Matlosz for a few years and remembered him as "a great guy to work with."
"We have pictures of him in our locker room and briefing room," he said. "Before each shift, every platoon that goes out touches the photo or brings him up some way."
The ceremony, Novak said, made him reflect on his time spent working with Matlosz.
"Chris always had a smile on his face, no matter what kind of day he was having. And he always put one on yours," Novak said.
"It was very heartfelt and it brings back a lot of great memories. It makes me appreciate my job and my coworkers and my family," he said. "He's always in our thoughts."
Matlosz' name will be added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C. next year, along with other fallen officers from around the country. But this local ceremony, Walisfer said, will serve as a yearly remembrance of her fiance.
"This way, they only mention his name once," she said. "Ocean Grove will mention his name every single year. It's absolutely beautiful."