Women from myriad walks of life in many shades of blue gathered at First Baptist Church-Broad Street on Tuesday in remembrance of slain Memphis Police Officer Martoiya Lang, the first female MPD officer killed in the line of duty.
They are part of a new campaign – We Bleed Blue – put together, in part, to raise funds to help assist Lang's four daughters, who range in age from 2-14 years of age. The campaign's organizers feature Ruby Wharton, partner in The Wharton law firm and wife of Memphis Mayor AC Wharton Jr.; former Shelby County Commission Chair Deidre Malone; Shelby County Dist. Atty. Amy Weirich; former Memphis City Council member TaJuan Stout Mitchell; and National Democratic Committee Member Gale Jones Carson.
Lang, 32, was a member of the Organized Crime Unit (OCU) and was serving a drug warrant in Southeast Memphis on Friday (Dec. 14) when she was shot. She died later at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis. A second OCU officer, William Vroomah, was also injured during the shootout. He was treated at the MED and later released.
At the We Bleed Blue kickoff, each woman who spoke at the podium did so with the same call-to-action but a different request of the public during the Lang family's time of need.
"Last Friday was a day of tragedy," said Wharton, "because this lady in the line of duty was slain. She put her life at risk every single day for us. And for that we are eternally grateful to her and all the officers and first responders who put their lives at risk every day.
"Unfortunately, she left four little children. And it's really easy to say our hearts are heavy but the question is what do we do," said Wharton. "And that is why we're here today. There are great needs that will have to be met. And we need Memphians to come together and help."
Weirich challenged citizens to remember the Lang family for years to come, reminding the public that even with justice served, all the holes would not be filled in the family's heart.
MPD. Lt. Caroline Mason attended in uniform – her presence moving some of the women to shed even more tears. In a reverent tone, Mason spoke about the history of women in the Memphis Police Department. She thanked citizens for their outpouring of support and honor extended to "our first fallen 'shero.'"
Malone noted the various banks, including Suntrust, Regions and the Bank of Bartlett, that are accepting donations on behalf of Lang's family. She also called for a moment of silence at 11 a.m. on Thursday (no matter where people are) as part of an "hour of remembrance" when the first visitation is held for Lang.
In addition, Malone asked the public to demonstrate unity for first-responders by wearing something blue on Thursday, and/or donate to Lang's children's community fund.
"I challenge as a member of the Philanthropic Black Women, who made a contribution of $2,000 to the Lang Community Fund, to other organizations to donate no matter how big or small," said Malone. "We know that it will definitely help. So, we ask you to support this effort."
"Our hearts are bleeding blue as a community response for our fallen shero," said Mitchell. "We are standing in the gap with all of our officers. And we will do what we need to do to support them. In the months to come, Madam DA, you will see us in courtrooms.
"We will be activists for legislation. We will sound the alarms in our communities and push for good legislation that will keep our streets safe, and we will get our churches involved, like this wonderful church, First Baptist Broad. We are the women behind the civic clubs and neighborhood groups and we can get this done."
An emotional Gale Jones Carson called for communities to pay attention to their surroundings. "We need to pay close attention to people around us, and when we see things, we need to report to social workers, police and first responders, because they may save a life."
The first visitation for officer Lange will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at M.J. Edwards Funeral Home at 1165 Airways.
A second visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Hope Presbyterian Church at 8500 Walnut Grove.
A "Sea of Blue" procession of Memphis police vehicles will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday in the 2600 block of Hollywood, heading south to eastbound Interstate 40 to Walnut Grove and will end at Hope Presbyterian Church. Two police cars and a Memphis Fire Department ladder flying an American flag will be located on the interstate behind 1062 N. Mendenhall Cove, the address where Lang was fatally shot.
The funeral service is at 11 a.m. Friday at Hope Presbyterian Church.