ROXBURY, NJ – A Roxbury school’s annual bicycling tribute to police took a particularly poignant turn this year: It was led by Mount Arlington Police Sgt. James DiStasio, an officer nearly killed while on duty in December.

The presence of DiStasio today at the fourth annual Eisenhower Middle School (EMS) Student Unity Tour nearly brought to tears Roxbury Police Chief Marc Palanchi.

In introducing the popular sergeant to a crowd of about 100 EMS students, the chief choked up. He noted the sergeant came very close to being among the unfortunate police who died doing their jobs.

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DiStasio suffered serious injuries when he was hit by a car while working a traffic incident on Dec. 11. He is still recovering from the incident, having returned home from hospital and rehab treatment in March.

At the annual Student Unity Tour, police from Roxbury and elsewhere join students in a 2-lap bicycle ride around Horseshoe Lake Park in Succasunna.

The event is designed to recognize the annual Police Unity Tour in which law enforcement officers ride bicycles to Washington, D.C. in honor of fallen comrades. The officers gather at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Judiciary Square, where a semi-circular wall contains the names of the more than 21,000 killed officers.

“He came as close to being on that wall as you can be,” Palanchi said. His voice trembled as he put his arm around the sergeant. “And we are so glad he’s not,” the chief added.

DiStasio told the students he appreciated their support. “You guys are excellent and awesome,” he said.

Then, cheerfully sitting as a passenger in a golf cart, he led this year’s entourage of bicycles in the ride around the park.

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