A Dallas firefighter pays respects at the makeshift memorial for fallen officers outside Dallas police headquarters in Texas, July 11, 2016. (M. O'Sullivan/VOA)
Stephanie Wesson and her daughter Shayla pay their respects at the Dallas memorial site outside police headquarters in Texas, July 11, 2016. (M. O'Sullivan/VOA)
Among the tributes honoring Dallas shooting victim outside Dallas police headquarters, a sign urges the country to “Stop the madness,” July 11, 2016. (M. O'Sullivan/VOA)
Camarion Hall leaves a note of support for Dallas police at a memorial site outside police headquarters in Texas, July 11, 2016. (M. O'Sullivan/VOA)
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DALLAS — Two police cars covered in flowers, balloons and handwritten notes have become the focus of the grief and hope for healing in Dallas, Texas.
At the makeshift memorial outside police headquarters, people of all backgrounds have been offering support for the city's officers over the past few days, expressing condolences for the dead and sympathy for the injured.
The mood was somber Monday, as the city returned to work and started to look beyond the tragic events of Thursday night, when gunman Micah Johnson ambushed local police, killing five and wounding seven, as well as two civilians.
It is painful to think of the "families that don't have their dad … and a wife who doesn't have her husband, and kids who don't have their grandpa and someone who doesn't have their brother," said Stephanie Wesson, her arm tightly encircling her young daughter. And there are fewer officers, she said, to protect and serve the city. "So, yeah, it hurts."
Mark Moulinet, a white man who came with his family from nearby Plano, said he is feeling "a little numb … but it's important to bring the kids down and see this, and let them understand how people are feeling and supporting our officers."
African-American Roscelyn Walton is saddened but "inspired because I think it's a collaborative effort between the community and police departments all around America to come together and find some middle ground." She, too, brought her young son "so he knows that violence is not a way to solve anything."
Sal Salinas, a Hispanic immigrant, says he is "feeling bad" because the gunman killed officers who had nothing to do with the killings of two African-Americans by police in Louisiana and Minnesota. The killings sparked the peaceful protest of the Black Lives Matters movement during which the police shootings occurred.
Honoring their own
People at the memorial site praised Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who has promoted community policing and outreach to minority residents. Brown said Monday that his investigators are working tirelessly — examining 170 hours of video — to be sure that Johnson was the only shooter.
Police officers from other communities stopped by the memorial, as did local firefighters
Firefighters and police "work together all of the time, every single shift, as fellow public servants, and so our hearts and our feelings are right there with these guys," said firefighter Brent Wise.
Many tears were shed as officers hugged well-wishers, accepting their condolences and thanks.
"It's really comforting," said Officer Steve Lopez. "I haven't seen this support in a very long time.”
Ellen Saler-Santini and her dog — with a replica police cap strapped to its head — brought smiles to the faces of the children.
"I think we've begun the healing process, obviously, and it can only get better," she said.
Amy Jenkins says Dallas needs to "come together as a city in unity, no matter what color you are, what race, no matter your ethnic background, religion, come together and support each other."
Visitor Bill Shay and his family arrived Friday from Florida. "We hurt for the families" of the officers, he said, but added he was also "amazed with the city of Dallas and how the people are handling this. It's just very moving."
The city's efforts at healing will focus Tuesday on an interfaith memorial service, where President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush are scheduled to speak. Obama also will visit the families of the fallen officers, and the victims injured in the shooting.