Monday, October 12

Waiting

The news media monitor radio traffic, so they often know there's an officer down before we do. But once we’ve heard that there’s been an incident, it’s only a matter of time before what we know outstrips what they’re reporting.

After a while, we being getting phone calls: friends, neighbors, coworkers. They tentatively say hello, but we cut to the chase, aware that they don't know how to ask the difficult question: Our officer is fine. He wasn’t hurt.

Others aren’t so tactful or gracious.

“What, I can’t eat?” says one man who’s being denied access to the restaurant where two of our officers were shot just an hour before.

“We might as well shut down for the day,” complains the car dealer next door, whose employees — witnesses — are being asked to stay and give their accounts of the shootings. “I guess they’re more important than we are,” he adds, as the friends of those men gather spent casings and take photos of the bloodied ground.

“Did one of ya’ll get shot today?” a fair-goer asks on-duty officers, without any salutation or introduction.

* * *

I’m not going to talk about what happened. You can read that in the news. I’m not going to talk about what’s happening at the hospital. That’s not my story to tell.

These were officer shootings number three and four in our city of 200,000 souls in just three years. There could have been more. There should have been less.

The only thing I can say is that the cocktail of emotions when something like this happens leaves you feeling sick: relief that it didn’t happen to your family, regret that it happened at all, survivor’s guilt, pride, indignation, defensiveness.

And the next day your husband…wife, significant other, son, daughter, whoever your officer is to you…the next day, he puts on his uniform and goes about the business of self-sacrifice while his colleagues lay broken in hospital beds and operating rooms as (barely) living reminders of what it is that must sometimes be sacrificed for the sake of this city and the people who live in it.

There is more to the story than what’s been written about in the paper — there always is — but I can say this with confidence: Those two officers saved lives last week.

* * *

Less than a month after a detective was killed in an off-duty accident, the Chief of Behind the Blue Line approached me at the local National Police Week memorial service. That day, I accepted the role of Sergeant of the Bereavement Committee, the portion of the group that organizes assistance to the families of fallen officers.

During the memorial, we sang this song, a song that is meaningful to me not just because of the lyrics, but because it was written by Bluetree about Belfast.


"Hopefully I won't be needed," I had said to the Chief of BTBL.

I still hope.

* * *

Back in college, I very much admired a professor who practiced pacifism. His decision made sense to me, and his beliefs were grounded strongly in the Bible. To this day, I believe that people of faith should embrace nonviolence. Naturally, when Noah decided to join the police department, I felt conflicted about the fact that he’d be issued deadly weapons.

Over time, though, I’ve developed a new understanding. In our protests and arguments, our confrontations and disagreements, nonviolence should be the standard. Yet there will always be people who seek to take, to harm, to kill, and those people cannot be allowed to freely move through our communities.

"I know there are some people who will say, 'That's it for me,' after something like this happens," Noah told me. "But not me. This makes me proud of what I'm doing."

Perhaps it's the altruism gene that fuels Noah. He says he feels compelled to do the job because most people don't want to. That compulsion can be hard on the spouses of the ones who feel it, because we must accept the potential for a sacrifice that we ourselves are unwilling to make.

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here

In order for the majority to live in peace, a few will never have that luxury. We are those few.

9 comments:

copswife said...

I'm so sorry this happened. I kept coming back to your blog after your last post, first not knowning what to say and then, after I wrote something anyway, trying to think how to say it better.

There is no way to say it better. I will be praying for your family and for those officers and their families. I will be praying for all their brothers (and sisters) in blue.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the personal update--your honesty is appreciated.

mrsofficer said...

This post really got me thinking...Thanks for sharing

Damsel Underdressed said...

When the three Pittsburgh Police Officers were killed this past spring, I remember feeling like all of the blood in my body had pooled to my feet. I first texted my cousin, unsure of in which zone he worked. Then I texted a good friend. They were both safe but I was so saddened for what they were going through. All I could do was pray for the families and the safety of all of our officers. I'll do the same for you.

Natalie said...

Thank you for posting about these officers, as hard as it may be. What really got me when reading the press release was that Chief Cunningham stated that a few witnesses knew that Evans had a gun and didn't say anything when the officers arrived. ?!?! Are civilians so desensitized that they don't realize the danger our men and women in blue are in? That really put a knot in my chest.

My prayers are with your husband's department.

copswife said...

Natalie: I know, I caught that too. I wonder if they just didn't realize how important that was, or if it all happened to fast? It sounds almost malicious in the article or whatever but the Pollyanna in me is hoping that is not true.

Jen said...

I hope, as well, that BTBL doesn't need you to fill that role either :(

May @ Anne and May said...

Wow. What a moving post. I lost someone dear to me in a very public way (national news covered it) and I was appalled by what people on the Internet said about it. It was chilling.

And I too often feel conflicted on the non-violence thing, but I like how Noah thinks about it and most especially I like that he's someone out there trying to protect all of us. He's good police. I can just tell.

Anne Dayton said...

We need more Noahs in this world. Thank you for sharing.

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