The faces of those closest to Stephen Carroll told a story of harrowing memories still fresh in the mind, and deep wounds that have yet to fully heal.
They gathered at Lurgan police station for a memorial service in honour of the first — and, mercifully, still the only — PSNI officer murdered by paramilitaries 14 months ago.
And, yesterday, Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable Matt Baggot and his predecessor Sir Hugh Orde joined PC Carroll’s family and friends and other serving officers to pay their respects.
On March 9 last year, only a few miles away from where yesterday’s service was held, Constable Carroll was shot dead by Continuity IRA gunmen after he and a colleague had gone to investigate a report of suspicious activity in the area.
That murder, at Lismore Manor in Craigavon, followed those of two young soldiers at Massereene barracks in Co Antrim 48 hours earlier and threatened to plunge Northern Ireland into another sectarian conflict.
But the brave, open dignity of those most affected by the killings helped ease a lot of the tension, and those qualities
were evident again yesterday at an intimate, poignant dedication service.
As dozens crammed into three separate rooms inside the police station, Fr Tony Corr invited everyone “to remember Stephen Carroll and to give thanks for all the good he accomplished in life”.
Tributes read by Andy, Constable Carroll’s brother, included touching messages from widow Kate and son Shane.
“Steve was a person of high principles and strong morals, which is probably the main reason why he chose the career that he did,” said Andy.
“Being a policeman is a very difficult job where you’re thrown into all sorts of dangerous situations, from domestic disputes to public order offences, full-blown riots and sometimes terrorist incidents... with seconds to make an important decision where someone’s life could depend on it.
“This is where Steve lost his life — doing what he does best, being a policeman, protecting the community.”
During the service that observed a minute’s silence, Mrs Carroll unveiled a memorial plaque in memory of her late husband, to whom she would’ve been married 25 years in August.
A musical tribute was performed by cross-community group Not In My Name, while schoolboy Aiden Doyle recited a personal poem.
Inspector Paul Hannigan, Stephen’s former boss, told how Stephen, who started his career in the military police in 1979, received the Chief Constable’s commendation for his duties to Drumcree in 2003.
“He was always smiling, with big red cheeks,” Inspector Hannigan said, his voice cracking several times.
“He was a pleasure to work with. Good at his job, professional, approachable, reliable, a good example to all young officers.
“He was no stranger to the dangerous sides of policing. We have all been there one way or the other.
“We know that Stevie was looking forward to the better things in life after the police, but we know that was not to be.
“Stevie survived the war, but not the police.”