In the early morning hours of Friday, March 4th Colonel Chris Mason distributed a Department-wide message with devastating news that shocked and saddened all members of the Massachusetts State Police family:
“It is with deep regret that the Department notifies you on the tragic passing of Trooper Tamar Bucci, at age 34, from the 85th RTT assigned to SP-Medford. Tamar was killed following an overnight motor vehicle crash on Rt 93, Stoneham, while attempting to assist a disabled vehicle in the break down lane.”
We would later learn the details that Trooper Bucci passed away despite the heroic efforts of three passers-by who extricated her from the cruiser, an ambulance crew who provided immediate medical aid while they rushed her to Massachusetts General Hospital, and an emergency room crew of doctors, and nurses who worked frantically to save her young life.
Later that day, they moved her from Massachusetts General Hospital to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (O.C.M.E.), but she wasn’t alone. Several of her class and barracks mates accompanied her and dozens more were standing by when she arrived. The Medical Examiner completed their work early the following morning and a hearse from a Stoneham funeral parlor arrived to collect Tamar. As they exited from the rear the building, hundreds of waiting police officers, firefighters, medical personnel, and supportive citizens lined Albany Street to pay their respects and salute as she passed. Similar crowds with hundreds of spectators lined the streets of Stoneham as the procession passed. All the while, a State Police helicopter hovered and kept a close watch over the procession and arrival.
Then, six days later, on a cold, overcast Wednesday morning, her hearse departed Stoneham for the ride to Revere where more than twelve hundred Massachusetts Troopers and another eight hundred uniformed state, local and Federal police officers from across the Northeast awaited her arrival. Three Boston news outlets also broadcast the funeral and ceremonies on live TV.
They had transformed the parking lot in front of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church into a makeshift parade field with a massive American flag fluttering overhead. As the State Police Pipes and Drums played a slow funeral dirge, the hearse bearing Tamar Bucci entered the grounds, followed closely by the funeral cars containing members of her family. The entourage passed in front of the somber formation then slowed to a stop directly in front of her classmates from the 85th R.T.T.
On command, the amassed group snapped to attention and with all eyes and hearts focused on the hearse, rendered a hand salute to their fallen sister. The pallbearers, all classmates, and close friends of Tamar, solemnly rolled out her casket, draped in the white, blue, and gold of the Commonwealth’s flag. They grasped hold of the side handles and with slow, synchronized steps, pivoted toward the center portal of the church. They carried her up the three steps, and past Colonel Chris Mason and the State Police Command staff. Governor Baker and other political dignitaries stood nearby with hands over their hearts. They all held their positions as Tamar’s parents, grandparents, and siblings followed her into the church.
The pallbearers lowered her onto a funeral bier and wheeled down the center aisle to her position of honor in front of the church altar. Friends and extended family were already in their pews as the immediate family assembled in the front few rows. The State Police Command Staff filled remaining seats along with her academy classmates and barracks mates from SP Brookfield and SP Medford.
After nearly a week, the grief and a deep sense of loss still filled our hearts; but the time had come to turn the corner and direct our attention and energy to a celebration of her wonderful, but shortened life. It was time to listen and learn more about her as a person, hear about her talents and accomplishments and her unfulfilled dreams.
Father Paul Clifford, a State Police Chaplain, presided over the traditional Catholic Mass of Christian burial. Several Catholic priests and representatives of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Greater Boston supported him at the altar.
During his homily, Father Clifford delivered an uplifting tribute to Tamar. He mentioned her vigilance and said that her eyes always focused on the future. He spoke of how she always had her dreams in sight and worked extremely hard to attain them. “She brought everything she had to everything she did. It didn’t matter whether it was as a State Trooper or in her previous jobs as a fitness trainer and security officer at the Everett casino.” He described her as a “brilliant shining light that shared her love with everyone around her.”
Towards the conclusion of the Mass, the worshippers sat quietly as Colonel Mason and Tamar’s stepfather, Jim Burditt, delivered remembrances and eulogies about Tamar.
Colonel Mason began by referencing her graduation day picture that had been widely circulated in the media, appeared on roadside tributes, and now displayed in front of the church altar. The newly sworn Trooper Tamar Bucci was standing inside Gillette stadium with a huge smile on her face and her new badge of office pinned on her chest. A reward and title, he noted, that can only come after six-months of sweat, study, and sacrifice in the State Police Academy. He added, “She is the very picture of quiet confidence and great promise.”
The Colonel mentioned a conversation he had with Tamar’s sisters when they expressed to him how she had told them that the graduation ceremony was the proudest day of her life. “When they told me that,” he said, “I knew that Tamar was exactly the Trooper we needed for these times: A Trooper who had a calling to protect the vulnerable; a Trooper who had a passion to make a difference; a Trooper who had a genuine desire to serve others.”
At the end of his remarks, and on behalf of the State Police family, he pledged to her loved ones that we would never forget their Tamar and her sacrifice. He said, “I want you to know the Massachusetts State Police family is your family. We will be there for you each day, today, tomorrow and every day into the future.”
Jim Burditt offered a different, more personal view of Tamar with wonderful remembrances of his “Tam” as a child and as an adult. His words brought smiles and light laughter to the crowded church. He referred to her as “our angel” and spoke of how she was “quirky, silly, physically strong, and absolutely gorgeous.” He mentioned her devotion to fitness and that she not only was an instructor but had run a marathon and entered a body-building contest. But, he added, “While she was strong physically, she was even stronger emotionally.”
As the Mass of Christian Burial concluded, Detective Lieutenant Katie Downey, whose angelic voice had filled the church with song throughout the ceremonies, began the recessional hymn, “How Great Though Art” as the attendees began to exit the church through the center aisle. At the same time, the introductory notes of Amazing Grace coming from the bagpipes outside called everyone back to their positions in the original formation. The mourners emerged through the front doors and stood while her parents and family members took seats on the stone quadrangle in front of the church. The Command Staff, other government officials, and friends flanked them on the opposite side. The pallbearers followed close behind, guiding Tamar’s casket to a spot in front of her parents and siblings while everyone prepared for the ceremonial and traditional conclusion to funeral services for a police officer who gave their life while in service to their community.
The closing notes of “Amazing Grace” had barely drifted off into the frigid, overcast afternoon, when a State Police rifle squad shattered the solemn quiet with an ear-piercing three-volley salute that loudly resonated off the homes and buildings bordering the church. A Trooper from the Mounted Unit slowly walked a rider-less horse between the uniformed formation and the assemblage of Tamar’s family and friends. As the soothing clip clop sounds of the horse’s hooves on the firm pavement was fading, the troops were called to attention. The flags and guidon of the 85th were ordered lowered as the uniformed officers once again rendered a hand salute. A distant bugler sounded Taps and moments later, a helicopter from the State Police Airwing thundered overhead at low altitude.
Colonel Mason and his command staff then presented Tamar’s mother with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts flag that had been providing cover for Tamar’s casket. Upon her death in the line-of-duty, Tamar Bucci’s badge, bearing the number 4400 was officially retired. The badge and number will never be re-issued. Colonel Mason presented Tamar’s mother with the almost new and highly polished badge of office replica badges bearing the number 4400 were also given a few of her other family members.
The last and most emotionally difficult words of farewell to our admired and respected “daughter of the Commonwealth” came from a dispatcher at Troop A Headquarters in Danvers. The “Last Call” was broadcast loud and clear through the State Police radio system. It was heard by all those present, every Trooper on patrol, as well as the extended audience watching via a live television broadcast.
The message, delivered in four simply worded stages struck an emotional chord we will never forget.
- “Station A to Cruiser 1832”
- “Station A to Cruiser 1832, Trooper Bucci”
- “Station A to Cruiser 1832, Trooper Tamar Bucci”
- “Station A, Cruiser 1832 is Code 4. Trooper Tamar Bucci, Rest in peace”
Like Trooper Bucci’s badge number, never will a call to cruiser 1832 be broadcast again. Her call sign is forever out of service and the registration plate cancelled and preserved in perpetuity.
As the hearse exited the church property and took Tamar to her final resting place, a light snow began to fall and cling to everyone’s clothing. A fitting way to end the day as we, each in our own way, clung to memories of Tamar Bucci and her life of generosity, kindness, friendship, and compassion. A promising young life that was very well lived, but like lights that burn twice as bright, unfortunately they often burn only half as long.