FRISCO, Texas – The week leading into FC Dallas’ home match against the Chicago Fire was arguably the most difficult week the city of Dallas has collectively experienced in its 175-year history.
Tragedy struck about 25 miles south of Toyota Stadium on July 7 when five Dallas police officers were shot down by a lone gunman downtown, leaving DFW-area residents questioning what they did to deserve such heartbreak. But in the midst of sorrow and confusion, a city came together by extraordinary means.
FC Dallas’ supporters were no different Saturday night.
During the fifth minute of play, all four supporters groups joined together for a one-minute moment of silence to recognize their fallen law enforcement officials, many of them wearing blue t-shirts reading #DallasStrong.
“It was an awesome thing to do,” said Daniel Crooke, secretary and design chair of the Dallas Beer Guardianssupporters group. “I think the supporter groups’ whole arena is to make a lot of noise, but for a silence to have that impact is just an awesome thing you really expect in sport. It’s kind of an amazing phenomenon.”
The silence was only part of the fans’ tribute to the five fallen officers. During the moment of silence, DBG also held up a banner with five stars on it – each one containing the name of an officer killed nine days prior.
While the stadium wasn’t totally silent due to non-supporters-group fans being unaware of the gesture, the drop-off in decibel level was clear to both bystanders and the players on the field.
“At first I didn’t know what it was, but then I looked over and saw the tifo, or banner, hanging,” said forward Tesho Akindele, who started the game from the bench. “Then it got really quiet in the whole stadium, but I thought it was a good tribute. Any sort of positivity in a time like this is good for the city, and good for us too.”
One of the fallen officers, Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, holds special meaning to a member of DBG. He was partners with Ahrens for four years with Dallas PD, but chose not to be named due to his current undercover work in the department. His connection to Ahrens goes so far as introducing him to his wife, Katrina, who called her fallen husband “a true warrior” at his funeral last week.
At halftime, DBG members laid the 18×18 banner out in the concourse and encouraged fans and FC Dallas employees to sign the banner, which Ahrens’ former partner eventually gave to the officer’s family as a gift.
According to Crooke, the banner was completely covered with signatures by night’s end.
“When I saw him, he was extremely emotional and began to cry when the banner was unveiled in the first place,” Crooke said. “[He] kept trying to hold it together while people were signing it.”
Fans weren’t the only ones signing the banner. On-duty Frisco police officers who were working the match stopped by to sign as well, though originally reluctant due to not wanting to steal attention from the magnitude of the moment. They did eventually sign, giving even more meaning to an already-grand symbol of community support.
“It was very real at that moment,” Crooke said of Ahrens’ former partner watching the Frisco police officers sign the banner. “They were making sure to read everyone’s thank-you message, but they didn’t want to be the center of attention and sign it.
“It was pretty cool to see the brotherhood that they have.”
All five fallen officers have been buried, and the region is now learning to cope, hoping to move on from a tragedy that left its residents speechless – even the ones in cities like Frisco that are miles away from the calamity’s epicenter.
But the supporters’ moment of silence carried moving sentiment Saturday night, and made the team they support even more honored to call them their fans.
“We’re proud to be able to participate in this hard moment for the community,” head coach Oscar Pareja said. “We all felt it, and there is still a lot of sadness in our hearts, thinking that our city is getting through it. For me, it’s a great gesture from the fans and the players and people in the stands, and everybody that gets together to support these families in these tough moments.”