It’s easy to say that Nicole and Ervin Romans fell for each other fast.
“26 days later, we got married,” Nicole said. “It was just seeing him – being next to him – I felt like I had missed him.”
They became a family of six. Both had two children from previous relationships. Nicole said it was, in many ways, a perfect fit.
“He just stepped in, and he became dad instantly,” Nicole said.
Ervin was a sergeant in the Oakland Police Department and a leader on the agency’s SWAT team. He had the day off on March 21, 2009, when he got the call that two officers had been shot.
“So he went out the door,” Nicole said. “An hour and a half later, I had someone knocking on my door.”
It was the deadliest day in Oakland Police Department history. Four members of the agency were killed. Sergeant Mark Dunakin and Officer John Hege were shot after a traffic stop. Sergeant Ervin Romans and Sergeant Dan Sakai tracked the gunman to an apartment building, when the gunman fired, killing both.
“They said it was bad, that [Ervin] had been shot in his face,” Nicole said. “I told them to have the sheets up, because I don’t want to see that, ever, and I don’t want my son to see that ever.”
Across the country
In 2009, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund says there were 135 officer deaths.
Scott Bierwiler, a Captain with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Department in Florida, was one of them.
Bierwiler died while driving to work. A teen driver crossed the median, hitting Bierwiler’s vehicle head-on.
His cousin, Tyler Hall, was working not far away as a Tallahassee Police Officer.
“[Scott] was always one to take time, to throw the baseball or throw the football … to take time to ask you how you’re doing,” Hall said.
The year following Bierwiler’s death, Hall decided to take part in the Unity Tour, as part of the motorcycle guard. During the Unity Tour, police officers raise money by riding bicycles 250 miles to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. Each year, the memorial serves as a backdrop for a candlelight vigil in honor of the officers whose lives were taken the previous year.
For Hall, it was truly a unifying experience.
“You’re there for a purpose bigger than you are,” Hall said. “You’re there to meet people you’ve never met, show your dedication and your love and your support for everything else that’s going on.”
Hall says that when a person signs up to participate in the Unity Tour, he or she receives a metal bracelet engraved with the name of the officer in honor of whom he or she is riding.
But there was a mix-up. Instead of a bracelet with Capt. Scott Bierwiler’s name, Tyler received one with a different engraving.
At first, he wanted to track down his cousin’s bracelet. Ultimately, he decided to keep the bracelet he had received.
“I was thinking, there was a reason I have this bracelet – a reason I was drawn to this,” Hall said.
Meeting at the memorial
Nicole was also traveling to D.C. for the candlelight vigil.
“I could have turned to any of those 10,000 people, fallen to my knees and cried, and they would have completely understood,” she said.
Nicole said people – strangers – would come up to her and her family and thank them for her husband’s service and sacrifice.
At first, Hall seemed like any one of those people.
“By chance, he found the officer who had carried my husband’s body out of the home he was shot in. He found this man who was so important to me, to ask, have you seen [me]?” Romans said.
As it so happened, the bracelet Hall had received accidentally was the one which had been engraved with Sgt. Ervin Romans’ name.
“I told her who I was, where I was from, that I rode for Sgt. Romans, and I appreciated his sacrifice,” Hall said.
Romans said she could barely understand him, given his strong Southern accent. But the sentiment came through.
“I said, look, we’re forever linked by this,” Hall said. “Anytime you want to talk, anytime you need anything … I know you’re cross-country, but give me a shout, and we’ll always be connected.”
For a woman grieving the sudden loss of her husband, it meant everything, even though it was but a short moment.
“I go on living my life. It’s what you just do,” Nicole said.
Back in California
A week after returning from D.C., Romans was headed to place a flower at her husband’s memorial, when a song came on the radio.
It was “Halo,” by Beyoncé. For Nicole, it wasn’t just any song.
“That song was on the morning Ervin was killed,” she said.
In fact, Romans had already had the lyrics to the song – “Standing in the light of your halo, I’ve got my angel now” – tattooed on her arm.
And it was in that moment that Romans received a text message from an unfamiliar number. The area code was from Florida.
“Asking to know how I’m doing, and wanting to know that I and my kids made it safe back to California,” she described.
Romans realized it was Hall – the police officer from Tallahassee. And in that moment, with her song playing on the radio, a new friendship started to form.
“It was good because there’s that commonality there,” Hall said, talking about their shared loss.
Time passed. Hall and Nicole flew back and forth from California to Florida to visit each other.
Then, after even more time passed, the friendship deepened into something more.
Initially, Nicole said she never thought she’d be able to fall in love again.
“Never thought I would – never would want to,” she said. “Never would want to feel this hurt or pain again.”
Despite the stroke of fate that brought them together – a mix-up with a bracelet – life together was no fairy tale, even after they became romantically involved. In many ways, Romans was still reeling from her husband’s death.
“I would tell Tyler … I can’t love you with the heart I have,” she said. “There’s no way. It’s broken, it’s gone, and there’s no way of even patching it.”
Hall said he soon found out there was no quick fix to cheer Nicole up.
“I quickly learned the best thing to do is let her be on that journey on her own,” he said, while letting her know he was there to support her.
And yet, the journey for Romans and Hall continued on, together.
On June 17, 2016, Nicole Romans became Nicole Romans Hall. Sgt. Ervin Romans’ son helped give her away.
Romans Hall believes the husband who was taken so tragically from her wanted her to be happy – and through his bracelet – helped bring her and Hall together.
“I can still keep Ervin close to my heart, but still learn a new love and grow into a new love, and walk a new life,” Romans Hall said. “It doesn’t take away from what I had with Ervin.”