With social media on the rise, so is the ability to say whatever you want without thinking twice about it. It seems like almost every week there is something in the news timelines about how awful the police are and the large amount of hatred in the country.
From the age of four, law enforcement has been a part of my life. My grandfather was a State Trooper up until I was about 17, and then he retired to become a detective. At age 11 my uncle became a State Trooper after being an city police officer for a few years, and married a 9-1-1 dispatcher.
I’ve seen the first hand struggles of being an officer or an officer’s family entails.
My 8th grade year I was on my phone in my last class when the local newspaper reported an officer involved shooting that had began in our county and ended in another county over, more information would be released as it came through. In that moment my stomach dropped- it’s like that moment there’s a car accident reported on a path you know your loved one takes and you immediately try to get a hold of them to make sure they’re okay.
When the bell finally rang, after what felt like multiple lifetimes, I went straight home. When I arrived home, I was greeted with my stepmom pacing the kitchen. She began at one end of the kitchen island and then made her way to the opposite end, back and forth. It was if I was watching the same clip stuck on replay. My eye followed the repeated motion until I decided to break the silence. “Hey, everything alright?” I knew the answer to that question before the words ever ran past my lips and out into the empty space.
The moment no one related to an officer ever wants to hear. The words left her mouth just above a whisper, as if she spoke low enough it wouldn’t be true.
“The shooting that happened earlier, your… your Uncle was one of the first to respond. Grandpa was also there maintaining the perimeter.”
How do you ask it? The question that comes to every mind. Is he okay? Even if he wasn’t hit, how could anyone walk away okay from that.
Though there was no physical wound visible on my Uncle there were wounds that laid beneath the skin. Wounds that over time wouldn’t completely heal.
I was only ten the first time I shot a gun. I can still remember the feeling of my hands shaking, as if my body was fully aware of the power it held with my hands around that gun. To think that a gun, like that of the one I held, is what brought him back to his family and took something away from him is crazy to me.
The first time I saw my Uncle after the shooting was eerie, like you could see the memory of it playing through his eyes. The event was starting to become visible on his exterior. That night we sat around listening to my Aunt, the 9-1-1 operator who was one of the individuals to dispatch her husband to the scene. I remember how ironic I found it that her voice was so delicate discussing what the last few nights had been like. She told us how hard the fight to get to sleep had been for the pair, how the support from everyone had been amazing, and the memorial being held for the K-9 police dog that had been shot and killed by the armed suspect. The cloud hanging over everyone seemed so heavy and hunched the shoulders of some of the strongest people I knew.
Every officer got to go home to their families, but that’s not always the way things turn out. Even with that happy ending, it came with its own crosses to bear.
My Grandfather who had been standing the perimeter remarked how in all the years he’s been on the job he has never had to fire his weapon. Then there’s my Uncle on the job only three years, who had to do the one thing some officers never have to do, shoot.
After some time had passed since the shooting, my Uncle and I sat at a coffee shop talking. The shooting came up and he said to me “You know what? In that moment I felt like I was the one thing that stood between that man with a gun and the whole world.
Right then and there I realized that it wasn't just some scary shooting, that could have killed him. No, it was a moment that he did what he took an oath to do, to serve and protect.
How easy it is to tell the story that you know the ending to, it’s a whole other thing to recounts events that you don’t know the outcome to. For many families who have lost their officers don’t know what the next day will bring. The fact he came home is a blessing.
It is so easy to publicly scrutinize those who serve and protect, but in those moments stones aren’t only being hurled at law enforcement but their families too.
Officers as human as anyone else, but their job involves putting their lives on the line for people they’ve never met before.
My family means the world to me and the tragic event my Uncle had to face has forever changed the way I look at most situations with officers.
It’s so easy to hate thoses that you don't know, easy to hate the fact that they are even there. Then when you know someone who you really click with and find out they hold the very thing you hate in their lives, does that make you hate them? Or do you change your perspective, personally I think we could all use a change in perspective.