Road, bridge dedicated to fallen state troopers
WALLBACK, W.Va. — Flowers still are laid at the concrete pillars supporting the Interstate 79 bridge at exit where two State Police troopers were fatally shot.
Miniature American flags still are stuck into the rocky ground and the names of those who have stopped by to pay their respects still adorn the pillars, protected thanks to a local union.
Many of those who attended Thursday's ceremony dedicating the interstate bridge in memory of State Police Cpl. Marshall Lee Bailey and Trooper Eric Michael Workman used the interchange named for the men to get to W.Va. 36 also named in their honor, thanks to a resolution passed by the House of Delegates during the past regular session.
"Everyone who travels this way will know about our friends, our protectors and our heroes," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said during the ceremony.
The gathering was in a small parking lot, just yards away from the park and ride where the troopers stopped 22-year-old Luke Baber last August for reckless driving. Baber would later shoot both men fatally as he sat handcuffed behind them in their police cruiser in that lot.
Cpl. Jim Mitchell, a State Police chaplain, opened and closed the service with a prayer. He officiated both troopers' funerals.
Workman's sister, Rebecca King, read a poem and Bible verse John 3:16-17. Dr. Justin Bailey, Cpl. Bailey's brother, grew emotional as he spoke during the ceremony.
"I wish I could say our family is back to normal but I know that will never be the case," Bailey said. "Not a day goes by I don't think about Marshall.
"In a way it's a shame that it takes a tragedy like this to recognize the bravery of our law enforcement community. They put their lives on the line every day for our safety and at any minute tragedy could strike."
The doctor said police officers aren't perfect but deserve the respect of the public and should be thanked.
"I think it's fitting that Marshall's name will be here with the people that he loved and protected and the people that he gave his life for," Bailey said. "I know there will always be a special place in my heart for the people in Clay County and I know for sure that Marshall was proud to be one of them."
Bailey, a Putnam County native, had worked in Clay County for most of his 17-year career with the State Police. A 42-year-old father of three and grandfather of one, Bailey loved working in the area and always supported the Clay High School Panthers sports teams.
Workman, an avid Musky fisherman and outstanding baseball player was born and raised in Clay County. At 26, he'd been with the State Police fewer than two years but knew that was his calling.
"They were men who didn't just serve here, they lived here," Tomblin said of the men. "They earned the community's respect and they were friends to many."
Col. Jay Smithers, State Police superintendent, said the past year had been hard for the Bailey and Workman families as well as the State Police family.
He spoke of the outpouring of support the families had received and said it was no surprise West Virginians responded in such a manner but that families also received messages of support and condolences from around the country.
"One of the biggest concerns of families seems to be that their loved ones will no longer be remembered," Smithers said. "Trust me, the West Virginia State Police does not have a short memory.
"Each day myself and many others working or visiting department headquarters pass through our Hall of Honor where Marshall and Eric's portraits are prominently displayed. It serves as a constant reminder to all who pass through that hallowed hall that justice justice in a civil society very often comes at an enormous price."
Smithers hoped others would remember that when they saw the green road signs bearing the men's names. Both men's families were given the State Police Cross, awarded posthumously to Bailey and Workman.
Also in attendance were Roane Deputy John Westfall and tow truck driver Frank Massey, both of whom were shot by Baber during his attempt to flee.
Westfall, who declined comment, was one of the deputies who went after Baber immediately following the shooting. He was wounded in the shootout that killed Baber.
Massey drives a wrecker for King's Wrecker Service and was on duty Thursday afternoon but took time to come to the ceremony. He remembered being called to the site that night to haul away Baber's vehicle, but when he arrived he found the gruesome scene and a gun-wielding Baber.
He said it was hard to put into words how he felt seeing his friends that night, but that the prevalent emotion was fear.
"Walking up seeing two friends been slain, turning around asking what's going on, being shot, fear of trying to get past him to get an escape route out of there," Massey said. "You didn't know at any given time he may shoot you again."
Massey was shot once in his upper left arm before he fled the scene and called for help. He attends physical therapy but doctors have told him there's nothing further they can do for his arm.
He said it meant a lot to be able to come and show support for his friends' families.
"We've ate lunch together, joked together, teased around together," Massey said. "They were more than just state troopers to me, they were actual friends."
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at email@example.com or 304-348-4850.