CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (WAVE) - One year after his death, the pain of loss is still very fresh for the family, friends, and coworkers of Charlestown Police Sgt. Ben Bertram.
The officer was killed in a crash during a pursuit on Dec. 12, 2018.
His K9 Franco was in the car with him and survived.
Thursday night, the Charlestown community came together for an emotional candlelight vigil to honor Bertram. As the sun began to set with pink and orange hues, people lit candles in his memory.
"He was a true hero," Kelly Mooneyhan, a childhood friend of Bertram, said. "You cannot replace somebody like him. Once you knew Ben, he was a friend or family member for life. He had your back no matter what."
Several in the community expressed their disbelief that he has been gone for a year.
“This last year has been very, very tough,” Charlestown Police Assistant Chief Major Tim Wolff, Bertram’s brother-in-law, said to the crowd. “I can’t believe it’s been a year. I can’t believe all the things we’ve done. I can’t believe all the things we’ve been through. It’s overwhelming.”
Wolff took a moment to thank the community for their support over the past year and sending the family and police department to Washington DC to the National Fallen Officers Memorial.
“We see you. We love you. We thank you so much,” Wolff said.
Charlestown Police Chief Keith McDonald said the loss of Bertram is something he and the department will never forget.
"Something else we'll never forget is the outpouring of support from this community as well as the Scott County community when we brought Ben home," McDonald told the crowd gathered. "We'll never forget the love and appreciation and support that this community has shown each and every one of our officers."
More than 100 people stood in the town’s square Thursday, surrounded by blue lights and lit candles. With tears streaming down many faces, they raised candles during a moment of silence for Bertram.
“For his family, this is a big deal,” Mooneyhan said. “This is letting them know that he is still here, he is still loved and he will never be forgotten.”