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‘Forever in Your Debt’: Chicago Remembers Police Cmdr. Bauer

Today, all of us our blue. We are blue in part because we are sad, we are broken-hearted to lose such a heroic man. But more importantly we are blue because we are proud. We are proud of the courage and the honor and the integrity of our police officers."

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Thousands descended on Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood Saturday morning from across the city and around the country to say their final goodbyes to fallen police Cmdr. Paul Bauer and remember his kindness, heroism and selfless service.

"Paul, I’m going to miss you," said Supt. Eddie Johnson, moved to tears during his message to the church. "I know you’re looking down on us all, and while there are no words I can say to describe the depth of my gratitude, I just want to say thank you."

"Paul always did more than what was asked, and he did so with honor and humility for 31 years in the Chicago Police Department," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "Yet the true measure of his devotion cannot be counted in years, it can only be counted by lives he touched."

Nativity of Our Lord Church "swelled to capacity" for Bauer's funeral with more than 300 out-of-town police departments represented and the entire 18th District arriving "to lay their beloved Commander to rest."

Cmdr. Bauer was shot to death Tuesday afternoon while assisting a tactical team in apprehending a suspicious person at the Thompson Center. His death has been ruled a homicide, and a suspect was charged in the murder.

"Even as commander, he would never expect one of his officers to do something that he didn't do himself," Fr. Dan Brandt said. "Like pursuing fleeing and armed criminals. And of course Tuesday that brave show of humility is what cost him his life."

Bauer's death marked an immediate outpouring of love and remembrance.

A procession of police and fire officials Tuesday evening stretched from Northwestern Memorial Hospital, through the city, to the Medical Examiner's Office. Chicago's downtown buildings were lit blue in his honor. Hours before Bauer's wake began Friday afternoon, Chicagoans lined up outside the church to pay their respects. The line spanned four city blocks late into the night. 

Johnson on Saturday made a vow to Chicago and to Bauer's family.

"Paul didn’t just run toward the danger. He ran into it," Johnson said. "And because of that he made the ultimate sacrifice. His sacrifice wasn’t in vain and justice will be served."

"This department and this city, Erin and Grace, will be forever in your debt," he said, addressing Bauer's wife and daughter. "And long after the commotion subsides and everyone goes back to their parts of the country, we will still be there for you."

Gov. Bruce Rauner said he imagines Bauer "is smiling" to see his family "surrounded by family, surrounded by friends, surrounded by the entire community, all of us who love you."

Rauner thanked all police officers, saying "there is no more noble profession, there is no higher calling than to be a police officer."

"Today, all of us our blue," Rauner said. "We are blue in part because we are sad, we are broken-hearted to lose such a heroic man. But more importantly we are blue because we are proud. We are proud of the courage and the honor and the integrity of our police officers across Chicago and across the state of Illinois."

A common thread throughout the morning's speeches was Bauer's sincere selflessness.

"He wasn’t just on our side, he was on the side of the men and women on the 18th District," Johnson said. "He was so proud of you all that whenever we would see each other, and I’m telling you Paul would go on and on and on… and on and on… and on and on."

First Deputy Superintendent John Escalante, friends with Bauer since childhood, also noted during the service how Bauer often deflected attention from himself to others.

"As much as Paul would appreciate what we’re doing here for him today, there’s a part of Paul that would be a little annoyed by it too because he never ever wanted to be the center of attention," Escalante said. "He actually skipped out on his own promotion ceremony to command."

"I beg that you remember Paul Bauer not by the way he died, but rather by the way he lived," Fr. Brandt said.

funeral procession will begin west from the church in the 600 block of West 37th Street, then head south on Halsted, east on Pershing to I-90/94E, then to I-57 south to 111th Street to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on 111th in Alsip.

"The healing process starts today for CPD as well as the family," Supt. Johnson said, "and this is going to be a difficult two days, but we can get through it. I thank you for your support."

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