WORCESTER (CBS) — The widow of Worcester Police Officer Manny Familia spoke about his death in a video released Thursday promoting a new foundation in his honor. Officer Familia died while trying to save a 14-year-old boy from drowning at Green Hill Pond on June 4.
Jennifer Familia participated in a video produced by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. It was released in conjunction with the creation of The Manny 267 Foundation, a fund to outfit all police cruisers with rescue “tubes”, and support water safety training for officers and swimming lessons for kids.
The “267” in the foundation’s name is in recognition of Officer Familia’s badge number.
“It’s been a bad dream that I just want to wake up from. This is my reality now, and I gotta figure out, how I’m going to deal with it,” Jennifer Familia said about Manny’s death.
In the video, Jennifer Familia recalls the fateful moments the day Familia drowned. He was trying to save teenager Troy Love, who also drowned. Two teenagers were rescued during the incident at Green Hill Pond.
“I remember just grabbing my keys, and ran out the door, panicking, crying. When we finally get there, there is a police officer blocking the entrance. I’m trying to explain to him who I am. I said, ‘I’m his wife, and he’s getting to the park.’ And he said, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t let you in there, but I was just told that they found him and he’s on his way to the hospital,'” she recounted. “They brought me to a room, and I knew right away, this is not good. All I could think about is what am I going to tell my kids? And what am I going to tell my mother-in-law? Because this is going to break her.”
Familia was 38 years old. He was a five-year veteran of the department. A beloved member of the community, thousands came out to a procession for Familia.
“He became a police officer because he genuinely wanted to help the community,” Jennifer said. “This was his home. He truly became a police officer to protect and serve.”
Manny’s cousin, Officer Alex Maracallo and the rest of his family, are turning the painful memory into something Manny loved: Saving others.
“We’re usually always the first ones on scene. And it’s tough in a situation like that, not to go in,” Maracallo said. “It’s like a burning building. They tell us not to go in for obvious reasons, but it’s tough not to go in.”
Manny’s brother Elvin thinks the rescue tube would have made all the difference that day.
“I believe with my heart that if my brother would have had a rescue tube or some type of training of how to save somebody from drowning, we wouldn’t be here talking about it,” Elvin Familia said.
To donate to the new organization, visit The Manny 267 Foundation’s website. Officer Familia is survived by Jennifer and two young children, Jovan and Jayla.