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Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS - Every year, first responders line Jackson Square to remember those killed in uniform and pray for those recovering from injuries.

The annual inspection ceremony takes place just before a memorial mass at St. Louis Cathedral.

And this year is especially meaningful for paralyzed Officer John Passaro.

'It's the first time I've put on the uniform since my accident,' said Passaro. 'And it does a lot. Brings up morale, makes me work even harder so I can get back to work.'

Passaro was shot responding to an armed robbery at a 9th Ward Dollar General in February. Now, he undergoes intensive rehabilitation three days a week. The shooter is still on the loose.

'I'm going to go on,' said Passaro. 'I'm going to do what I have to do.'

It's a reminder of the dangers first responders face every time they hit the streets.

Officer Troy Pichon is still on crutches after he was shot in the leg just three weeks ago at Third and LaSalle Streets. The suspected shooter has been arrested.

'These men and women do public service because it's in their heart and soul to do so and sometimes it will cost you everything,' said New Orleans Police Chief Ronal Serpas.

It cost Officer Rodney Thomas everything. He was killed in a hit and run on his way home from work in July. His family is still reeling from the loss, and has this message.

'Their families may not see them when they leave home, they may not ever return so I think that people should really have a little more respect for the police officers in the city,' said Thomas' son, Rodney Thomas, Jr.

After the inspection ceremony, first responders attended a memorial mass inside St. Louis Cathedral. Cameras were not allowed inside.

Passaro blew a whistle in tribute of the officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Pichon read the NOPD prayer. This marks the first time officers recovering from injuries have taken part in the ceremony.

And as first responders remembered their own inside St. Louis Cathedral, city officials said they're working on ways to better protect those first responders while their on the job.

'We're going to have 100 new cars on the street, we're going to have body cameras,' said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

'This year, going through budget, we're talking about cameras, and other types of equipment we think will really enable them to be a lot more safe on the job,' said Councilwoman Kristin Palmer, District C.

It's a job that comes with enormous risk and Sunday morning, the community is paying homage to the men and women- and their families- who take that risk each day.

Serpas says about 100 officers are currently injured, on long term disability, on military leave or on workman's comp.

Police are still looking for the person who shot Officer John Passaro. If you have any information, call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.

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