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Thousands mourn fallen New York police officer

Genesis Villella, center, and twins Delilah and Peter Vega, children of New York City Police Officer Miosotis Familia, participate during her funeral for New York City Police Officer Miosotis Familia, at the World Changers Church, July 11, 2017 in The Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Richard Drew – Pool/Getty Images)

An image of Miosotis Familia’s smiling face looked down from a church stage as thousands celebrated the life of the police veteran and mother of three on Tuesday. The officer was was laid to rest a dozen years to the day after she joined the NYPD.

Familia, 48, a daughter of Dominican immigrants named for a flower known as the forget-me-not, was remembered during a funeral service punctuated by heart-rending speeches by her children, Mayor Bill de Blasio and others. She was laid to rest one week after being shot in the head while sitting in a marked command truck in the borough where she lived and worked.

In a movie theater-turned-church in the Bronx, Familia’s 20-year-old daughter, Genesis, and 12-year-old twins, Peter and Delilah, embraced each other behind a podium decorated with a portrait of their mother. Thousands of uniformed officers from as far away as Canada and Los Angeles lined the borough’s Grand Concourse for the service.

Below the stage, Familia’s flag-draped coffin was flanked flower arrangements.

“I just want to say, ‘Mom, I miss your smile,” Genesis said. “I miss your big, beautiful brown eyes. They were always so clear and sparkly. I miss your beautiful, soft brown skin that felt like velvet and I miss your beautiful, black curly hair that looks like mine. I’m glad you’re still here with me, that you’re here with us … I love you mom. Thank you for everything.”

Genesis recalled how proud she was when her mother became a police officer and how, on the night Familia was killed, she asked for an extra hug before her mother left for work.

“And she said, ‘Of course, of course you can,'” Genesis said. “I said, ‘I love you so much, mom. I’ll see you tomorrow.’ I know when she went to work that night, when she sat in that truck, she had me and my siblings in her heart. She had love in her heart. And she wasn’t upset or nervous. I know that she passed with love in her heart, with our love in her heart.”

Familia, who was posthumously promoted to detective, was fatally shot by a 34-year-old man who had ranted against the police. The suspect, who had a lengthy criminal record, was shot and killed after drawing a gun on officers who confronted him near the spot where Familia was killed.

Familia’s life was taken after she went to work on the night “we celebrated the wonder of this country,” de Blasio told mourners.

“She was strong but kind, resourceful and energetic,” he said. “She embodied the American dream. Child of immigrants. The first in her family to go to college. Beautiful New York City story. A striver. She always was working to better herself and her family.”

He added, “She died the night her nation was born and she died a patriot defending all of us.”

Familia, the youngest of 10 children, was killed “solely because she wore a uniform,” de Blasio said. “She was murdered while acting as an agent of peace.”

“We, the civilians, we must be the guardians of those who protect us,” de Blasio said. “It’s not a one-way street, my friends. We must help our police in every way, just as we ask them to help us in our moment of need, when something goes wrong in our life, we expect them to be there.”

His voice choking at times, Police Commissioner James O’Neill spoke about the “creeping apathy” among many in the public over the role and work of the police.

“This amazing woman, this mother, this daughter, this sister, this friend, this New York City police officer was assassinated solely because of what she represented and for the responsibility that she embraced,” he said. “All her killer could see was a uniform, although Miosotis was so much more.”

“Where were the demonstrations for this single mother who cared for her elderly mother and her own three children?”O’Neill asked, alluding to increasing tensions between the police and communities around the nation. “Officer Familia was targeted, and ambushed, and assassinated. She wasn’t given a chance to defend herself. That should matter to every single person who can hear my voice, in New York City and beyond.”

Familia’s sister, Mercedes, joined the mayor and police commissioner in calling for an end to violence against law enforcement.

“We have to show love,” she said. “This has to stop. … Please, if you see a police officer in blue, hug them and say thank you.”

At the end of the service, pall bearers gently lifted Familia’s coffin. They led her family in procession out of the World Changers Church.

In front of the ornate facade of the 1920s-era building, under a cloudy sky, a bugler played Taps as Familia’s elderly mother, Adriana, her brothers, sisters and her three children wept. The casket was slowly carried to a hearse. Thousands of men and women in blue offered a final salute.