THE FIRST MOMENTS
Today, it was an urgent email. Previously, it has been a phone call or a bulletin on the TV. The morning of July 8, 2016, it was an on-line news story.
On that dark July day, I learned that five of my brothers were dead; seven more had been injured. Today, I was jolted with the news that a brother and a sister officer had lost their lives just minutes away from my home. The reaction then and now is pretty much the same.
In July, I recall trying to read my computer screen for details while tears streamed down my cheeks and blurred my vision. Today, while trying to contain the strongest emotions: tears, sadness and extreme anger, my instinct was to race out the door to help those in need.
Neither the news nor my reaction is ever routine.
Life comes to a screeching halt. Learning that a fellow officer has been killed is mentally all-consuming. It is emotionally overwhelming. My initial response is to join the team hunting for the scumbag who killed two members of my family in Blue. The thought of being part of the team that captures this asshole is stimulating – thinking of just how miserable we could make his existence in a matter of moments.
Then, reality sets in. I sent a text to those officers I’ve worked with at Orlando PD. “I am here for you. You are not alone. Please let me know if there is ANYTHING I can do for you.” Those cops on the front lines – who have suffered the greatest loss – need to know we are there for them.
I went on with my day, keeping an ear tuned to the radio for any emerging news. I did my best, carrying a terrible ache in my head and in my gut. I knew that there wasn’t any medicine that would take the ache away. I carried on, giving it my best.
Later, my cover was blown. I arrived at the gym encountering a long-time cop buddy named Tony. I simply said, “Did you hear?” His quick response was, “yeah.”
Both of us wanted to say something profound that would ease the pain. We stood silently, staring into each other’s eyes as the tears began to flow. “Why does a cop funeral cause such hurt and aching inside?” My first cop funeral followed the death of my Dad by a few short months. The cop funeral hurt far worse and in different ways.
“Is it because it could have been me?”
“Is it because I think I could have changed the outcome if I were there?”
“Am I guilty because it wasn’t me?”
Tony’s response, “All of the above.”
I feel a deep sense of anger … no, hatred for the person who took these officers from our midst.
There will be a short moment of solitude when I stand at the side of the casket of Master Sergeant Debra Clayton and Deputy First Class Norman Lewis. Every emotion will come welling up in a mixture I’ve only experienced at a cop funeral. Words cannot possibly describe it.
I will thank God for these two and all of the others who are willing to put their lives on the line each day in defense of the good people of this earth.
For now, I hope to find a brother or two who share my sentiments so that we can just be together.
Thank you God, for leading me to this Brotherhood.