Temple community mourns death of Christopher Fitzgerald in emotional vigil

The Temple community gathered at the Bell Tower today to mourn the death of Temple Police Officer Christopher Fitzgerald.

Marissa Fitzgerald arrives at the Bell Tower for the vigil remembering her husband, Christopher Fitzgerald. | ERIKA MONN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

In her speech at Tuesday’s vigil in honor of Temple Police Officer Christopher Fitzgerald, Marissa Fitzgerald remembered her husband’s love for Temple University and his family.

“He was proud to be a Temple cop, he was so proud,” she said. “He would buy all the t-shirts, all the mugs. You couldn’t touch his Temple mug. Our daughter accidentally broke the first one he ever got, but because she was daddy’s princess, he didn’t care.”

Hundreds of people gathered at the Bell Tower Tuesday to mourn the death of Christopher Fitzgerald, who was fatally shot Saturday night while attempting to apprehend a carjacking suspect. Nine people spoke at the memorial, including Temple President Jason Wingard and Fitzgerald’s family members. 

Officers from the Temple University Police Department listen to speakers at the vigil. | ERIKA MONN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Before the ceremony began, an individual flashed an abrasive sign and was confronted before being restrained by the police, which alarmed the crowd. Faculty Senate President Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon attempted to settle the crowd and introduce Quaiser Abdullah as the first speaker. 

Abdullah, a communications professor and a chaplain with the Philadelphia Police Department, began the vigil with a speech remembering Fitzgerald’s dedication to his job and urging the community to come together in support of his family.

“With this temporary life, our goal is to find ways to serve the creator and positively impact the lives of those around us,” Abdullah said. “Officer Fitzgerald did exactly that consistently and compassionately.”

Abdullah’s speech was followed by an address from Wingard, who emphasized the need for the Temple community to come together as a family amid recent instances of gun violence in hopes that the recent tragedy will encourage change within the community.

“For us, it has to be a catalyst for an outpouring of compassion, of love and grace,” Wingard said. “That is the only thing that can combat this epidemic of gun violence that has stricken this nation.”

Student Body President Gianni Quattrocchi delivered an emotional speech encouraging students to uphold Fitzgerald’s legacy of service and devotion to the community.

Rabbi Daniel Levitt, director of Temple Hillel, spoke about the Jewish saying “may his memory be a blessing” and delivered a brief prayer. 

Marissa Fitzgerald spoke after Levitt, sharing her husband’s dedication to his job and safety on Temple’s campus.

“He was a hard worker, he would do overtime all the time and sometimes it made me sad, but I know that he was taking the overtime because sometimes they were short staffed, and he just had to make sure everyone was safe,” she said.

Marissa Fitzgerald urged those in attendance to cherish time with their loved ones.

“My family will never be the same,” she said. “I will never be the same. I pray for all of y’all’s safety, and to hold each other a little tighter. His legacy will live on.”

Marissa Fitzgerald delivers an emotional speech at the vigil at the Bell Tower on Feb. 21. | ERIKA MONN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Marissa Fitzgerald’s speech was met with a standing ovation from the crowd and attendees comforted each other.

Fitzgerald’s father, Joel Fitzgerald Sr., reminded students of their ability to create change and work to address gun violence in Philadelphia.

“What’s going to solve this problem in our city, what’s going to solve the problem in our country, are minds like yours that came out here today because it was the right thing to do,” Joel Fitzgerald said.

Williams-Witherspoon closed the ceremony by reading an original poem dedicated to Fitzgerald and other first responders.

“To the police officers like Christopher David Fitzgerald, plans to protect and serve, who carry risk life and limb in the service of family community and kin, a service we take for granted, don’t wait till it’s too late, we don’t say ‘Thank you’ nearly enough,” Williams-Witherspoon said.

Fitzgerald’s family will be holding viewings on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at John F. Givnish Funeral Home on 10975 Academy Road and 8 p.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Friday at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway near 18th Street. A service will follow at the Cathedral.

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