AUSTIN (KXAN) – Bagpipers marched and harmonized. The seven rifles fired three shots each. And a lone bugle wailed Taps. They ran through the same routine two times on Tuesday to make sure they had it right because on Wednesday, it will have to be.
That will be the day they say goodbye to Senior Deputy Jessica Hollis.
The Austin Police Department Honor Guard and others involved in the ceremony travel the state to perform the time-honored traditions which accompany the funeral of an officer killed in the line-of-duty. But Wednesday, they will return to Cook-Walden Capitol Parks Funeral Home in Pflugerville to honor one of their own. Hollis worked at APD before joining the Travis County Sheriff’s Office in 2007. On Wednesday, many of her colleagues she served side-by-side with just one week earlier will lay her in her final resting spot.
“We are all broken,” said Senior Deputy James McFall who served on the same shift with Hollis. “We do not know how to fix it, but we are working on it.”
Fixing it may never happen. Hollis was described Tuesday by her shift mates as an outstanding and “tenacious” officer who consistently wore a smile and volunteered for the Sheriff’s Office dive team. Nearly 200 sheriff vehicles are expected to take part in the procession leading Hollis’ casket from Hill Country Bible Church to her grave site. Officers from across the state and as far as Louisiana are expected to be in attendance.
“To say Jessica is an asset would be an understatement,” said TCSO Detective Darrell Gibson. “It is going to be difficult to find someone to fill her shoes.”
But for the void she leaves behind, she also leaves no shortage of memories. For all the praise heaped upon her as a law enforcement officer, McFall remembers the smile that used to always adorn Hollis’ face. Ironically, a smile was the last interaction they ever had with each other.
“The last thing I received from her was a smiley face message after a call,” he said. “So it was a good one to end on.
The last memory of Hollis that Gibson will take with him is the Sunday before she passed away. Their dive team was trying to clean up the bottom of Lake Travis and the four toilets they removed from the water led to a few jokes. Jessica also would occasionally belt out singing her favorite song from the movie 50 First Dates.
“Love her to death, but singing was not her strong point,” said Gibson.
Wednesday will offer one final time for anyone to make a memory of Jessica Hollis. As with almost every funeral, speakers will remember her life, talk about her passions and accomplishments, and all she left behind.
But Gibson said anything uttered about Hollis on Wednesday will not be out sympathy or condolences. The usual words voiced to remember and memorialize the dead will not carry the same meaning when they are said about Hollis.
Everything said about Hollis will carry special honor.
“Every good thing you have heard about Jessica, she earned.”