MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD -- Montgomery County officials renamed the Wheaton Glenmont Outdoor Swimming Pool on Tuesday in honor of a county police officer who died in the line of duty seven years ago this day.
The pool is now named the "Sergeant Hector I. Ayala Wheaton Glenmont Outdoor Swimming Pool".
"This is a great honor to be here, especially for my children. Who know now that his name will live on for many years," said Ayala's wife, Melissa. She was joined at the ceremony by Ayala's four children, a son and triplet daughters. The daughters were born after Ayala's death.
"It’s a difficult day, but it really is an uplifting day in some ways to be able to honor is sacrifice and service," added Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger.
The pool is less than a block from where Sgt. Ayala was killed on April 4, 2010. He was responding to backup another officer for a report of a fight in Wheaton. As Ayala was traveling along Randolph Rd., his cruiser left the roadway and struck a tree.
The tree is no longer there, but the spot is marked by a metal guard rail that is painted black, with a thin blue stripe in the middle (this is the thin blue line that is used in the law enforcement community as a tribute to officers that have died in the line of duty).
Ayala's wife and children left flowers at the site of the crash following the ceremony. She said that the grief of that day will never go away.
"It’s a bandaid that’s constantly ripped off and if there’s anything that I learned from it, it’s just to keep pushing forward," said Ayala. She added that one way she pushes forward is to look at the brighter things, which for her, are her four children. "They know that their father loved them and they know that despite him not being here he misses them and I share as many stories as I possibly can with them."
The county also announced that along with the renaming, it is launching the Sergeant Hector I. Ayala Safe Summer Initiative. One day each year at the pool, starting in 2018, the county will hold a day of swimming lessons and teach pool safety tips to parents and children.