Every single time Matthew O’Hanlon drives past a certain point on Interstate 95, he thinks of his father, a Philadelphia police officer who perished there in a fiery on-duty crash 28 years ago.
The spot is near the Bridge Street interchange.
Now, the thousands of motorists who traverse that corridor each day can also be reminded of Officer Charles P. O’Hanlon as well as Officer Brian Lorenzo, who died along the same highway last year when an alleged drunken, wrong-way driver ran down his police motorcycle.
Public officials led by state Sen. Mike Stack on Aug. 6 re-dedicated a 12-mile stretch of I-95 in memory of both O’Hanlon and Lorenzo, who were members of the Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol and on the unit’s elite Motorcycle Drill Team, although they never served together.
“You are an unbelievable example of sacrifice, commitment, courage and love. For us to be able to pass this legislation …, it is something we are honored to do,” Stack said as he addressed both families during a ceremony next to the highway.
Last year, the state legislature passed a bill that renamed I-95 between mile marker 23 (near Allegheny Avenue) and mile marker 35 (near Academy Road) in memory of the two officers. Stack shepherded the legislation, which was signed into law in October. Other Northeast lawmakers supported the initiative, including state Rep. Brendan Boyle, according to his press secretary Mark Ladley.
Other officials in attendance included Mayor Michael Nutter, Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby, an aide to U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, members of the Philadelphia Highway Patrol and Pennsylvania State Police Troopers who now patrol the interstate.
Signs will be erected at both ends of the highway corridor identifying it as the “Officers O’Hanlon and Lorenzo Memorial Highway.”
“We are so honored that words escape me to say how we feel,” said Matthew O’Hanlon, who like all three of his brothers followed his father’s footsteps into the police department. “In this state, this city, this police department and this [Fraternal Order of Police], we know our heroes will never be forgotten.”
Charles O’Hanlon lived with his four sons and wife, Elizabeth, in Fox Chase. He was 40 years old and a 19-year police veteran on Nov. 13, 1985, when he stopped a van for a traffic violation on northbound I-95 near Bridge Street. After the officer exited his police car, a northbound tractor-trailer carrying hazardous materials struck the van, igniting a fire and pinning O’Hanlon in the wreck.
Lorenzo died on July 8, 2012, on the northbound side of the interstate just before the Cottman Avenue exit. An alleged drunken driver had entered the northbound lanes traveling in a southbound direction and struck the officer head-on. Lorenzo was headed home to Somerton after a late-night shift. He was in full uniform and had just cautioned another motorist to stop speeding.
Lorenzo was 48 years old and a 23-year police veteran. The accused drunken driver is awaiting trial on homicide charges.
Lorenzo’s wife, Linda, and their children, Brian, Marissa and Dominic, all attended the ceremony, as did Brian Lorenzo’s brother, Manny, who is also a police officer, and their mother.
“We are honored by what you do for us,” Linda Lorenzo said.
“There are two great families here today and a lot of officers who won’t forget,” McNesby said. “Both Chuck and Brian gave their lives protecting the roadway behind us.”
“They gave their lives in providing safety to the citizens of the city,” Nutter said.
The re-dedication of state-run highways is not unique in Northeast Philadelphia. A portion of Roosevelt Boulevard is named in memory of slain Officer Daniel Faulkner. Last year, a portion of Cottman Avenue west of Algon Avenue was named in memory of slain Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski. ••