Widows of Fallen Dallas Officers Tell Their Story, Forge Friendship

"…sometimes I cry louder than I want to"

They sit strong, the three of them, laughing at times, fighting back tears at times, and reassuring each other, as best they can, that there will never be another night like July 7, 2016.

"The first year to me, it didn't even feel real. I still expected him to come home every night, for the garage door to open," said Heidi Smith, wife of Dallas police Sgt. Michael Smith, one of five Dallas officers who were gunned down and killed in an ambush.

NBC 5 News
Heidi Smith, wife of slain Dallas police officer Sgt. Michael Smith. The couple had been married for nearly two decades and had two daughters.

"I still have moments when I feel that way," said Heidi.

In a matter of minutes, as a peaceful protest moved through Downtown Dallas, gunfire rained down on unsuspecting police officers, wounding seven and killing five – Sgt. Smith, Dallas officers Patrick Zamarripa and Michael Krol, Dallas Sr. Cpl. Lorne Ahrens and DART Officer Brent Thompson.

The orderly demonstration was shattered shortly before 9 p.m., when high-powered gunfire erupted from weapons, allegedly triggered by Micah Johnson, a war veteran with a supposed grudge against white police officers.

His name was never mentioned when Heidi Smith, Kristy Zamarripa and Emily Thompson, DART Officer Brent Thompson’s wife, talked exclusively to NBC 5 News.

Instead, they talked about life before, during and after the attack.

… About how public their losses were, when they so desperately needed privacy to grieve, as the world tried to make sense of yet another mass shooting.

…. About how at times they still lock themselves in a room, hoping their children won't hear them suffer.

Kristy, for instance: "Sometimes I cry louder than I want to, or mean to, and I'm pretty sure they hear me. But I think they'll be OK."

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Kristy Zamarripa, wife of slain Dallas police officer Patrick Zamarripa, planned to be a police officer until her son asked her not to following the shooting. The couple also had a daughter.

They talked about how life can turn in an instant.

Like for Emily: "Brent and I, when everything happened, we were married a little over two weeks and we were just getting settled into an initial normal ... We hadn't even had our honeymoon."

And how, at times, they would wonder whether, somehow, they contributed to their husbands' deaths.

As unlikely as it seems, Kristy agonized that a text she sent to her husband – of a fun moment - may have diverted his attention, if only for seconds, leaving him vulnerable as the madness began.

It wouldn't be until later that she learned Patrick had left his phone in his patrol car, when he got out to stand guard during the protest.

For Heidi, an unforgettable moment came the night before the shootings, when her husband pulled her away from their two young daughters and whispered he was worried about the upcoming protest.

"I just have a bad feeling about it," he told her.

Heidi said she dismissed his concerns at the time, knowing he was assigned to the North Central patrol station - far from downtown Dallas.

But all that changed the next day when Smith went to work, learned a less experienced sergeant from the station was assigned to work the protest, and, instead, volunteered to take her place.

During the interview, all three women expressed their gratitude for the support they've received from the community, including receiving hundreds of letters, many of them from children.

NBC 5 News
Former DART officer Emily Thompson, wife of slain DART officer Brent Thompson, left the DART police department after the shooting. The couple was married for only two weeks before the July 7 shooting.

They also said they were grateful for the help they've received from their "police family," including the Dallas Police Department, the Dallas Police Association and the Dallas-based Assist the Officer Foundation.

"All the organizations that pulled together and took in donations and did fundraisers have been there for us," Heidi said.

Plus, they said, they have each other, in a close bond cemented by tragedy.

"I don't feel alone," said Emily.

Kristy agreed, saying, "It's horrible how we became friends and family. But I'm thankful for these two…It's a forever bond."

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