Sunday, January 09, 2011

Honoring a Hero

For those who know the real me on Faceb00k and have seen my posts there all week, you know that one of our local police officers was killed in the line of duty on new year's day. Although she worked for a different jurisdiction, our local law enforcement community is very close knit. It was a deeply felt loss for all of us. But it always is. Police work is just that way. When you choose this career, you're choosing to step into a very large family that stretches worldwide. And although we realize the risks we face in this job... it's still so hard to lose someone.Her death has affected me more than I ever imagined it would. I've struggled this week with a lot of overwhelming emotions. It caused memories to resurface of Jake and how hard it was to lose him. I bury all of that deep in the vault and only really allow myself to feel it on the anniversary of his murder. But this week those memories were forced out.

I also think it affected me more than other losses because the deputy was female. I can't really explain why that makes a difference. I guess maybe because I can relate to it more because of that shared experience. We were also the same age. I think seeing myself in the mirror of her has made me think a great deal of my own mortality.... when I don't really think about it anymore. I mean, I know that far too many police officers are killed in the line of duty. I know I also face that risk. But I don't really THINK about it anymore. This week I did. A lot.

She was also a mother. That may have been what hit me the hardest. I've always done this job with just me in mind. Just me. I know that if I had to lay down my life in the course of doing my job, my family and friends would mourn the loss of me. My community would mourn the loss of me. And that would be difficult. I would never ever wish that on them. But I was okay with the risk. I had come to terms with it. Because it was just me I was risking. But as I move into motherhood.... it's not just me anymore. And it was very very VERY hard for me to process all the feelings that came this week with the thoughts of my own mortality as it relates to this new chapter in my life as a mother.

The outpouring of support from the community has been awe inspiring. There were over 1600 law enforcement and fire vehicles that participated. This is the staging point prior to the processional taken from a news helicopter. And it just shows a portion of the parking lot. The processional was over 2 miles long and took nearly 2 hours just to clear the parking lot. There were police officers, firefighters, emergency workers and some military as well. They came from all over the country. Even a few from Canada attended the deputy's funeral.

On new year's day, after the deputy was shot and killed, a news crew was on scene when a massive gun battle took place between the responding officers and the suspect. During that, another police officer was shot. The cameraman caught it all on tape. The video went viral and got national media coverage. I think because of that... more police agencies were aware of her death and so, therefore, more officers were drawn to attend. It was definitely one of the biggest funerals most of us had ever seen or heard of.Thankfully, the other officer who was wounded survived his injuries. He's already been released from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. He also attended the funeral.

Everything about that day was amazing, touching and heartbreaking all at once. The long line of the processional, the citizens standing along the route in 20 degree weather to pay their respects, the fly over by the state patrol helicopters, the 21 gun salute, the over 150 pipers and drummers who played. The majesty and ceremony involved in a funeral for a police officer or firefighter killed in the line of duty is a sight to behold. But one I hope I don't ever see again. If only we could all be that lucky.

All of the above images were taken by a photojournalist from our local newspaper. Except the one below. It was taken by a fellow police officer as he walked to the small country cemetery where the deputy was laid to rest. He said this line of police officers stretched for at least a half a mile. It makes me so proud to have chosen this career. The world lost a good one this week. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family, friends and fellow officers as they now learn how to live without her. I'll do my best to honor her and all the others gone before her every day that I wear this badge. Rest in peace, Suzanne. You've earned your place in Heaven. We'll take it from here.


CM said...

So, so hard. I know exactly how you feel. Now that I've been transfered back to patrol, the risks of my job are even more in the front of my mind, especially now that I'm a mother.

So sorry for your loss. The pain never goes away, it just dulls a bit. God bless you and your co-workers.

Michelle said...

Even though I already knew about this from FB and had clicked on some of the links you posted, this post just brought me to tears. My heart goes out to her family. And to you as well, as I know how hard this has been for you.

Debbie said...

Beautiful tribute, Krista!

~Kristen said...

Beautiful Post...

I can't imagine the range of emotions you must go through when something like this happens. Praying for you and all of the families touched by this tragedy.

HuluMama said...

What a wonderful tribute to a fallen officer!

It's amazing the gamut of emotions you go through as your referral gets closer.

I appreciate the your dedication, and that of all other law enforcment officers. I am sorry for her loss.

Kim said...

I can't imagine what you are going through..
beautiful post..
Hugz my friend..

Donna said...

My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. As a former deputy sheriff and with so many of my family in uniform, these stories really chill me. The risks are real but losses like this are still very uncommon. You can take comfort in that.


k1 said...

Krista, I know your thoughts and feelings. When I saw the news on New Year's day I swore. I couldn't believe that IT was happening already in the new year. So many in 2009, in our corner of the world and elsewhere, so many more in 2010. Couldn't we have had at least a few days in 2011 before it started again? And the tally for 2011 is climbing already.

I have 20 years in with my agency at the end of this month, over 30 years in my career. I am so ready to retire and find a new career. But, I know that even if I leave the job, these events will continue to twist my innards because we are ALWAYS a part of the LE family, whether active or retired.

Stay safe.