It will be a day of tears, salutes and anguish seldom seen in the Bay Area as fallen Santa Cruz police officers Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler are laid to rest Thursday.
Thousands are expected to join or witness the 33-mile procession from the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz to HP Pavilion in San Jose, the nearest venue large enough to hold an expected 18,000 to 20,000 mourners.
It's also likely to be an outpouring of grief unlike any in the Bay Area since the day in 2009 when a convicted felon gunned down four Oakland officers in two separate shootings. Cop killings are always deeply disturbing, said one retired police officer, but this one is particularly chilling because it happened in a small city during a routine investigation.
"The Oakland shootings were highly unusual, but unfortunately we have gotten used to cops being killed in Oakland," said retired San Jose patrolman Bruce Raye. "They have a whole wall of photos of dead officers up there that is unreal.
"But these officers are from a small department. Santa Cruz is my community, your community. This hits the homeland of America. Everyone can relate to this."
The two officers were ambushed Feb. 26 by Jeremy Peter Goulet, who shot them to death when they went to question him about an allegation that he had groped a woman. Goulet was killed in a shootout with police shortly afterward.
Thursday's 30-mph procession will bring Highway 17 to a crawl, as well as stretches of highways 85 and 87. People will watch the vehicles pass from the streets of Santa Cruz and freeway overpasses, and many more will see it on TV, filmed from helicopters. Los Gatos firefighters plan to park their trucks on overpasses and stand at attention as the long convoy passes.
Most memorials are held near an officer's station or home, with a short drive to the cemetery. But San Jose is the nearest city with a facility large enough to hold the 6,000 officers and thousands of citizens expected to attend, including high-profile elected officials such as Gov. Jerry Brown.
Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and California Attorney General Kamala Harris are expected to speak at the memorial.
"This terrible tragedy has had an enormous impact on the entire Santa Cruz community, and it is on all of us to offer a helping hand to our neighboring city during its time of need," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. "I hope this event will allow all of Sgt. Baker's and Officer Butler's families, friends and colleagues, as well as the residents they served, to come together to grieve and honor their fallen heroes."
Santa Cruz Metro is giving free bus vouchers to anyone who lacks transportation to the service, and Caltrain is free to members of law enforcement going anywhere it serves.
The procession is scheduled to begin at 8:45 a.m. on Ocean Street at the Boardwalk and arrive in San Jose sometime after 10 a.m. But a procession of that many vehicles traveling at 30 mph in a single lane could take longer.
The CHP will not allow motorists to use other lanes to pass the convoy of cars and buses on highways 17, 85 and 87.
California Highway Patrol spokesman D.J. Sarabia warns that the biggest impact may occur after the service, when the procession makes its way back to Santa Cruz just as the afternoon commute begins around 3:30 or 4 p.m.
"We are asking everyone to be really, really patient," he said. "Both coming over in the morning and going back in the afternoon. The return trip could be really brutal."
For the traveling public, the message is this: Expect delays and avoid Highway 17 and other parts of the route if you can.
"I am taking an earlier than usual Highway 17 bus in the morning," said commuter Brittany Overbeck. "With the funeral procession, people either need to get on the road before 8:30 a.m. or plan on taking alternate routes and still leave earlier than usual."
The CHP advises drivers to avoid Highway 9 and Soquel-San Jose Road, and not to park on overpasses. Those who need to get from the Santa Cruz area to San Jose are advised to take Highway 129 from Watsonville east to 101 north.
The memorial will also affect bus riders in San Jose, as the Valley Transportation Authority expects to reroute numerous lines in the downtown area between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. For more information on bus service, go to www.vta.org/reroutes.
The memorial could also make parking at the nearby Diridon Station across from the HP Pavilion tougher than it already is.
"If you can work at home, this would be a superb day to do so," Sarabia said.
But for many, traffic headaches will be the least of their concerns.
"It feels like we lost two of our own," said CHP Officer Sarah Jackson. "We work very close with the Santa Cruz PD."
So do many other Bay Area law enforcement agencies, as former San Jose Officer Raye noted: "This day will be very hard."
Staff writer John Woolfolk contributed to this report.