It has been 20 years since University Police officer Michael Blankenship died in the line of duty, but for his daughter Dianne Ratliff, it still feels like yesterday.
Dianne Ratliff was 23 years old. She remembers the phone call that came during dinner. She remembers, as her 5-year-old son sat beside her, being told her father had been shot. She remembers being escorted to the University Police station shortly after hanging up the phone.
“It seems like it was yesterday,” she said. “Just because the memories are so clear and you just remember everything that happened.”
On Nov. 10, 1997, Michael Blankenship responded with his partner to a suspicious-persons call at the Wexner Center of the Arts. They attempted to remove a man who had refused to leave, before the suspect pulled a gun and fatally shot Blankenship.
Every February, University Police, along with the Blankenship family, holds a memorial ceremony and reception outside of the police station that has since been rechristened in Blankenship’s name.
This year they planned something special.
On Friday night, members of Blankenship’s family were invited to the Schottenstein Center for the men’s hockey game versus Minnesota. Before the game began, the family was invited on the ice in front of 5,000 fans to take part in a moment of silence for the fallen officer.
“It’s a good feeling just because we get to honor him and remember him with the police department,” Ratliff said. “The police department has been very supportive.”
University Police Chief Craig Stone released a statement Friday night regarding the anniversary of his department’s only fallen officer.
“Officer Michael Blankenship made the ultimate sacrifice and the university remains grateful,” the statement read. “The Ohio State University Police Division is proud to honor our fallen brother tonight and thanks the Department of Athletics & Schottenstein Center staff for joining us in saluting the Blankenship family.”
Through her experience, Ratliff said her perspective on life has changed.
“I think it made me a stronger person,” she said. “It changes your outlook. I respect police officers for what they do, they put their lives on the line every day, risking for people that don’t care … they don’t think of it the way we think of it.”
Twenty years have passed for the Blankenship family, but Ratliff said it does not get any easier. She still misses her father and she still wishes her four children could know their grandfather. But she said the OSU community has continued to support her and her family.
“It’s a family, that won’t go away,” Ratliff said. “You connect with them more than you would other people. It just feels like a welcoming.”