January 3, 2010
By KEVIN CALLAHAN
Adria McMeekin drove down her street and saw five houses in a row with a blue light in the window.
"It made me feel happy when I saw them," Adria said.
Adria, a 7-year-old from Washington Township, remembered her father, Thomas J. McMeekin Jr., an Atlantic City police officer who was killed in the line of duty five years ago, by starting Project Blue Light in her neighborhood. Project Blue Light, a 20-year tradition started in Philadelphia, honors officers slain in the line of duty by replacing a white bulb in a window candle with a blue light.
"I am really proud of her," Jen McMeekin said about her daughter. "I am ridiculously proud of her and how she has adjusted so well."
Jen McMeekin is also thankful to her neighbors. She moved back to Washington Township, where she grew up before living in Atlantic City for eight years, only a year ago.
"The support of the community is emotional for me," she said.
Her neighbors, Michelle and Andy Torrie, were touched to participate.
"What a cool thing it is when she drives by and sees the blue lights to know everybody is remembering her father," Andy Torrie said about Adria.
Project Blue Light took root when Dolly Craig put a blue light in her window during the holiday season in 1988 to honor her son-in-law, Philadelphia police officer Danny Gleason, who was shot and killed in June 1986 while investigating a vandalism report.
Craig wrote to Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), which provides resources to assist in the rebuilding of the lives of surviving families and affected co-workers of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, to inform the nonprofit organization of what she was doing. Since then, the idea of putting one blue light in a window has spread across the country.
According to C.O.P.S., each year, between 140 and 160 officers are killed in the line of duty.
Adria started Project Blue Light in her Hunter's Chase development by going door to door to 120 houses with a letter starting "Dear Neighbors."
She explained her father died on March 4, 2005 when "I was 2 years old while working as a police officer in Atlantic City."
Adria continued in the letter to say by replacing a white bulb with a blue light "you will be remembering all police officers who have died and support those who are still serving as police officers in out town and surrounding towns today."
And, she added, officers "just like my stepfather Bill."
Jen McMeekin remarried in early December. Her new husband is Bill Sminkey, a detective with the Upper Darby, Pa., police force.
Adria also wrote in the letter: "They will see this when they drive by and it will make them happy because we are showing them that we care. Every day they protect our community and keep us safe."
This year, Adria plans to expand Project Blue Light to her school and her cheerleading team. And she plans to keep the blue lights glowing every year.
Adria, a first-grader at the Birches School, planned to use her allowance to buy the blue bulbs; however, Drissel's ACE Hardware Store in Washington Township donated the blue lights.
As to how she thinks her father feels looking down at all the blue lights, Adria smiled and said, "really really happy."