BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - It began with a "sign of the cross" made toward a police officer on patrol in Bay St. Louis, just hours after the tragic killings in Baton Rouge.
But now, the simple gesture has become a fast-growing project. As news of a tragic police shooting in Baton Rouge spread, Samantha McRaney made eye contact with a female police officer, who was alone in her patrol car.
"And I looked at her and I just went, I made the sign of the cross. She looked back at me and went (taps chest) for the three officers that died," McRaney said.
From that brief, but memorable, encounter the project "Silent Salute" was born. McRaney and her friends are encouraging everyone to buy $10 gift certificates and distribute them to law enforcement.
"Spread the word, put it on your Facebook. But more importantly, go get a gift certificate for $10," said McRaney.
"We're blessed here, we have a good community. At this time, they're seeing another side that they know has always been out there. But it's being put out a lot more," said Bay St. Louis police chief, Mike Denardo.
One reason the project catching on so quickly is because it's such a simple act of kindness that anyone can get involved with.
"They're great. I mean they go through every day trying to protect us. And I just thought it was fantastic I got the chance to do this," said 15-year-old Joe. Lawson.
The "Silent Salute" is spreading quickly and getting some national attention, with CNN scheduled to do a story on the project.
"You know, I think now more than ever, our law enforcement and fire departments, all of our first responders, need to know that the community supports them. They appreciate the fact that they're out there on the line for them every day," said Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame.