AIKEN — When Debbie Rosenbloom went to grab her nice black shoes from a closet to wear to Aiken Public Safety Master Cpl. Sandra E. Rogers’ vigil, she discovered little white marks all over them.
She bent down for a closer look and realized it was candle wax. The last time she had worn the shoes was a little more than 30 days ago for the vigil of another slain Aiken officer, Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson.
She ultimately chose another pair because the memories the candle wax held were too raw.
“I think it was too soon,” said the longtime Aiken resident.
She was not alone in that thought. But like Rosenbloom, other Aiken residents turned out in force to honor Rogers at the vigil outside Aiken Public Safety headquarters on Laurens Street.
The Rev. David Lester of Second Baptist Church in Beech Island read from Scripture and addressed officers, who were interspersed with civilians, all huddled around the bed of flowers at the foot of the public safety sign.
“Sandy wrote a blank check to the city of Aiken for an amount up to, and including, her life,” he said. “Sandy was committed to a job of courage.”
Jamie Turner, a friend of Rogers for 12 years, said that although Rogers loved her job, she was a lot more than her uniform. She described what she and Rogers had called “porch sessions” in which they “ate until we hurt and then laughed because it was hard to move.”
Turner said the hardest thing she has had to do is explain to her 4-year-old daughter why “Aunt Sandy” will not be visiting anymore.
Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, also addressed the group, although he admitted it was difficult to find the words.
“I was reluctant (to speak) because what words can be spoken?” he said. “I don’t think any of us can find the right words.”
Even though Rosenbloom never met Rogers, she understands the support the department will need in the coming days. Her father was an officer for more than 30 years.
At the vigil, she handed out fliers she had made, small postcard-sized paper with a black background and a thin blue line across the middle. On it, she asks members of the community to turn their car lights on during the day, through Saturday, as a show of support. It’s something she says is simple enough for anyone to do and will be visible to the officers as they pass.
“There is no doubt of the strength the department has gained from this community,” said Sgt. Jake Mahoney. “It has definitely boosted this department’s morale.”
As if the crowd needed reminding, during the vigil, a call went out and officers sprinted from the yard to their cars. Even during a vigil for one of their own, Aiken Public Safety was still on duty.