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In Kentucky, a young boy’s heartfelt welcome on his first day of kindergarten brought a poignant tribute to his late father, who was a police officer. Riley Cottongim, 5, received a warm reception from about two dozen officers of the Louisville Metro Police Department, the very department his father, Officer Zach Cottongim, had served.

Reflecting on the touching moment, Jamie Cottongim, Zach’s widow, shared her feelings with “Good Morning America,” saying, “I could just feel Zach. I could feel him standing there with them. I just felt so close with him in that moment and to see Riley smiling and high-fiving all of them, it was amazing.”

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Officer Zach Cottongim tragically lost his life on December 18, 2021, while on duty. He was struck by a passing vehicle while inspecting a wrecked vehicle on the side of the road.

Alongside his wife Jamie and their 2-year-old son Alexander, Riley now carries the legacy of his late father. On this significant day, the police presence was organized by a group of officers’ wives who wanted to ensure that Zach’s absence was still marked by a strong representation. Officer Donna Morgan, who had partnered with Zach on the police force for over two years, explained that this initiative was a way to honor his memory and ensure his sons know the depth of his love for them.

Jamie Cottongim described the police community as “family” to her and her sons, and Officer Donna Morgan was particularly close to her late husband, akin to a sister.

Zach Cottongim had dedicated his entire career to the Louisville Metro Police Department, having served for slightly over seven years before his tragic passing. Jamie Cottongim remembered him as someone who radiated passion for his work and a genuine desire to assist others. She said, “He was the true definition of what it is to put that badge on and to serve others.”

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