The Philadelphia Police Department’s 24th district was joined by state Sen. John Sabatina Jr. and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 president John McNesby Thursday afternoon at the corner of Castor Avenue and Amber Street to dedicate the 2100 block of Castor Avenue in honor of fallen police officer Raymond Diaz Jr. The block will now be known as “Police Officer Raymond Diaz Jr. Memorial Highway.”
“I learned about Officer Raymond Diaz before the FOP memorial ceremony in Harrisburg back in May,” Sabatina said. “I felt a street renaming, particularly in an area he patrolled, would be a token of our appreciation.”
The event was also attended by state Rep. Angel Cruz.
“It’s very important for us elected officials to recognize our heroes who’ve dedicated their lives to our communities,” said Cruz at the event.
On Sept. 9, 2016, Diaz died of health complications he sustained two years prior when he was responding to a burglary-in-progress. As he was responding, another vehicle struck his patrol car, injuring him.
The 2100 block of Castor Avenue in the heart of the 24th police district, where Diaz proudly served for two decades.
On one side of 2100 Castor Avenue is the building that formerly housed the Sterling Paper Company. The building features a tower, which is symbolic of the Harrowgate community. On the other side of the street is the Heitzman Recreation Center, where so many children and adults from the community come to play baseball, basketball and swim. It is also the meeting place of the local civic association.
Diaz’s wife, Meagan, and son, Raymond Diaz Jr., both spoke at the event.
“I woke up this morning, and as I walked into my kitchen there was a beautiful butterfly on my wall,” said Meagan after thanking officers from the 24th district for attending. “Ever since when Ray went to heaven, I always see butterflies and I know it’s a sign that my forever is there with me. Ray was the most – and I mean the most – loving and caring husband and father and he always put us first. He was always second. We made sure together that our children were raised in a loving home. I have to say that not only were the kids very lucky to have him as their dad, but I was the luckiest one to have him as my husband.”
Diaz’s son also spoke of how he missed his father.
“It’s been hard since my dad went to heaven. Being a teenager without him is even harder. I was only 13 years old when my dad left us that morning. It was my first day of high school. My life changed forever.”
The area is experiencing a resurgence. The new owner of the Sterling Paper building is converting the space into residences, while Heitzman Recreation Center is going to be refurbished in the next year.
“This new investment in the community cannot happen without the dedication and sacrifice of the 24th district police officers,” Sabatina said. “Fittingly, as the community prospers, a main thoroughfare in the neighborhood will bear the name of a person who helped make it possible.”
“I just want to let the family know that we’re always here for you,” said Capt. William Fisher, commander of the police department’s 24th district. “You can always call the 24th district if you need anything, and we’ll do whatever we can to help you out. I understand that Ray isn’t here anymore, but he’s still a part of our department. This is a fitting way to honor Ray by dedicating this block to him. He’ll always be a part of the 24th district.”
At the end of the ceremony, Raymond Jr. shared a poem he wrote the first night he spent without his father.
“I will never disappoint you, dad, and I will be successful in life,” he said. “You are gone but never forgotten. Not only were you my dad, but you were my hero. You will always be my hero dad. I love you.”