The news flashed the words ‘Five Officer Killed and Seven Hospitalized.’ A shot to my stomach that took my breath away was my first response. This was happening in Dallas, Texas USA. But, it could’ve been happening in any town where I live or throughout the states.
Why was my response so intense?
Because it’s the news that no family member of a police officer wants to hear. Whether you’re the wife, the mother, the father or a close relative; these words are the last thing you want to hear. They’re the words you live with every day. You repeat them over and over in your mind. They’re the words you repeat to yourself in hopes that when the knock comes to your door you’re prepared to hear them. You never are.
How does this happen?
I’m sure when those officers left for work that morning the last thing on their minds was that they wouldn’t return home that night. This is an unbearable tragedy for all of the families of the fallen officers to have to live with for the rest of their lives. The shooter was killed with a bomb sent into the location with a robot. But, the memory of the incident will live on in the minds of the families stricken that day.
As the wife of a man who wore his NYPD Blue uniform proudly, these are the things we have to endure daily. When your husband, father of your children, walks out the door you never know if he’ll return home safe and whole.
Why do they do it?
They hope that they’re the ones who are going to clean up the mess that’s on the streets. Growing up in the ghetto streets of one Brooklyn neighborhood, my husband was exposed to daily police visits. Domestic violence, burglaries, thefts, carjackings and murder were all part of what he saw as a child and teen.
He viewed the police officers, who came to keep peace in his neighborhood, as the cowboys with the white hats. He thought they were the ones who kept his neighborhood safe. He wanted to do that when he grew up too.
When he was accepted into the department; he never worked in good neighborhoods. He worked in places called Fort Apache or Brooklyn South. He worked undercover and with subversive organizations trying to infiltrate among them to gather information that might help clean up the miscreants that endangered innocent people trying to live decent lives in neighborhoods just like his. He earned his Medal of Valor, his Awards of Merits and far too many commendations to list. But, all with a price attached.
I recall the day I had the knock on my door. The one I thought I was prepared for. I was not. The uniformed police sergeant and his partner stood at my door like bronze figures. No words were needed to be said. I knew. I heard nothing. Their mouths moved but my ears heard nothing.
They said I was supposed to go with them.
I had 3 small children, all under 10 years old, and no one to care for them.
My heart was torn apart. I couldn’t think. They handed me the information and left.
I wanted to curl up in a ball and never open my eyes.
Then, my daughters were all crying and it brought me back to reality. I had to be strong. I had to make decisions. I had to stop thinking about how I felt and get on with the things I had to do.
I had just moved to this neighborhood. It was 1 ½ hours away from the hospital where my husband had been taken.
When we’d found the house we wanted, I had concerns about how far it was from his precinct. He’d assured me that the drive wouldn’t be a bother. He had convinced me that it was the best thing for our family. He said, “You’ll be far away from all the bad guys I capture.” They usually harm the families. You’ll be safe. It would be a big adjustment but it made sense. After all, he was a warrior when he was out on the street. He would and did make lots of enemies.
Both of our families were in Brooklyn or out of state.
I had made a new friend when my middle daughter started kindergarten. She was the only person I could think of to call.
It was midnight but I was desperate.
She came over immediately to take care of my children.
My life changed from that day forward. My husband was in a wheel chair. I was no longer just taking care of children. There was an adult who needed me too.
There were doctor appointments, physical therapy and lots and lots of medications to pick-up and monitor.
He was told he’d never walk again. The bullet was never removed. It was too dangerous to be removed surgically because of where it was. It was left where it was with the possibility that it could move and travel to places it shouldn’t go. They would be scrutinizing its location to monitor where it was traveling. It was a grim diagnosis to hear.
But, I was married to the man with the white hat. The hero in the story. They always end up on the right side of life and the law.
He was going to prove their diagnosis wrong.
He was going to walk and be whole again.
And, he did.