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Craig Lehner's sister: 'Please tell me that's not you they're looking for'

The older sister of Buffalo Police Officer Craig E. Lehner said attending a police memorial ceremony Monday at a Lockport school was hard.

"It's so amazing to know that he touched so many people, that they want to go out of their way to honor him," said Donna Wilson, who lives in Lockport.

"It helps," she said. "I really think I'd be a blubbering mess and not be able to even pick myself up out of bed if I didn't feel all this love and support."

The ceremony at Emmet Belknap Intermediate School also honored family members of two other fallen officers with Lockport ties.

Christine Fragale, sister of Niagara County Sheriff's Deputy Jeffrey Incardona, attended. Incardona died in a 1993 patrol car crash while rushing to aid a Lockport policeman who had been shot.

Also on hand were Anthony, Tammy and John Parete, the father, stepmother and brother of Buffalo Police Officer Patricia Parete, who was paralyzed after being shot on duty in 2006 and died in 2013. She was a Lockport native.

"It's nice to be here, but I wish she was here," Anthony Parete said.

Tributes to Officer Craig Lehner

Wilson recalled how she learned of the dive training exercise on Oct. 13 when her brother went missing in the Niagara River. A Facebook page included an article about the search for a missing underwater recovery team diver.

"It hit me in the pit of the stomach," she said. "I didn't know if he was diving that day, but I knew he was a diver. I texted him, 'Please tell me that's not you they're looking for.' Then I didn't hear anything."

Donna Wilson, sister of fallen Buffalo Police Officer Craig Lehner, speaks to reporters after a ceremony is his honor in Lockport Nov. 6, 2017. (Thomas J. Prohaska/The Buffalo News)

Monday's ceremony was part of the Lockport Blue campaign, a pro-police effort now in its second year. Civilian organizers Ellen Martin and Mary Brennan-Taylor are among those who set up programs in Lockport area schools and distribute blue yard signs in Lockport.

On one side they read, "Thank You," and on the other side, "Be Safe Tonight."

"I think it's a wonderful thing that they're recognizing the people who risk their lives to keep us safe. It warms my heart," Fragale said.

"The whole idea behind (the ceremony) was to create a bond between students and law enforcement," Emmet Belknap Assistant Principal Sean Murray said.

About two dozen uniformed members of the Lockport Police Department, Niagara County Sheriff's Office and New York State Police attended the event.

"I really hope we'll see in 15 to 18 years a surge in (police) academy attendance," Wilson said. "It really shows they're out there to protect and these kids will grow up with that feeling and want to do the same."

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