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City of Pain.

Sharing this article from Mr. John Kass -- "Each time I hear the words “Chicago Police officer Samuel Jimenez, 28, married father of three" again and again, the words become like the slow tolling of a bell. Police families, Thanksgiving, and Mercy Hospital shooting. Wounds that won't heal. My column. Hope you share." - John Kass

Officers follow an ambulance as it arrives at the medical examiner's office carrying the body of police Officer Samuel Jimenez, who was killed during a shooting at Mercy Hospital in Chicago, which left four people, including the gunman, dead Nov. 19, 2018. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune)

November 21, 2018, 5:00 AM

Chicago Tribune Column: Police families, Thanksgiving and the wounds that won't heal

Chicago, the city of pain, has already suffered through the murders of two Chicago police officers this year, the most recent at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center on Monday. And less than 24 hours later, another officer was almost killed in a gun battle on the South Side, saved by his police vest.

As the mayor and the police ask that, on this Thanksgiving, we remember the fallen, I called the father of two police officers.

Can those of us who are not from police families ever hope to understand?

“Who am I to judge what others feel?” said Paul Vallas, candidate for mayor, whose two sons are police officers in other towns, chasing bad guys, making arrests. “But with my boys, when any cop is shot, they hurt. As a father I know they hurt. If you have police officers in your family, you know.”

There was a long pause on the phone. And there was pain in the silence.

“My sons call me like clockwork after their shifts, just to let me know they’re OK,” Vallas said. “Every shift, they call. I have such good boys. I’m lucky. I am so blessed.”

At your Thanksgiving table, you might think of Samuel Jimenez, 28, the married father of three, who was killed at Mercy Hospital on Monday, rushing toward the sound of gunfire to save lives.

You might think of the son of police Officer John Knight, who was 7 years old when his father was killed in 1999. The last time I saw the young man, he was 12, in a Cook County criminal courtroom, stoically watching the murder trial of the man who killed his father. And you might think of the sons of Chicago police Officer Bernard “Bernie” Domagala. Bernie died in 2017, having lingered for 29 years, a changed and broken man after that bullet penetrated his skull in 1988.

And of the family of Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer. He was murdered in February as he ran to challenge a threat to public safety.

And of all the the other police families, and the police dead, and their orphans and their widows and widowers, on this Thanksgiving Day.

On Tuesday morning, I stood for a long while out in the parking lot of Mercy Hospital, where just 24 hours earlier the murder of three decent people ripped and tore at Chicago’s damaged heart. Patients and staff got out of their cars, pointed to where they thought it started. And I fixed on that hospital sign above the entrance, and thought of mercy.

For many, the word has a secular meaning, involving the elimination of shame and suffering, and the end of pain. But I’m told by my Greek Orthodox faith that “mercy” has another meaning as well: That it is the loving embrace of God.

There were three innocent people taken at Mercy: The emergency room physician, Tamara O’Neal, who led the choir at her church; pharmacy resident Dayna Less, 24, who was to be married in a dress her mother was stitching by hand; and Officer Jimenez, who ran to the gunfire.

There are plenty of politics to be played here, about whether the murders could have been prevented and what could have been done. And about what drove the murderer, apparently angry over a break-up with O’Neal, to become the face of evil.

But I’ll leave those hot and eager to play politics with the dead to hold their news conferences and make their speeches and do their virtue signaling.

I can’t help but think of something else, not politics, but a sound, something beyond words. Each time I heard officer Jimenez mentioned in media, the news of his death was accompanied by the phrase “Jimenez, 28, married and the father of three.”

An officer walks in front of an ambulance as it arrives at the medical examiner's office carrying the body of a police officer who was killed during a shooting at Mercy Hospital that left a total of four people, including the gunman, dead on Nov. 19, 2018, in Chicago.

And if they weren’t the exact words, the words were close. And each time I heard it or read it, “Jimenez, 28 … father of three … Jimenez, 28, father of three ...” again and again and again and again, the words transformed themselves.

They ceased to be vowels and consonants and lost their meaning and became a sound, some deep internal sound that you feel inside, like the slow tolling of a heavy bell.

Rahm Emanuel spoke about the murders at Mercy, but to his great credit, the mayor spoke in universal, not political terms. There was exceptional eloquence in his agony. What he said was sparse, and measured, but you could see the real pain in his eyes. And the chords he touched were all about the simple and profound clarity of public grief.

“The city of Chicago lost a doctor, a pharmaceutical assistant and a police officer all going about their day, all doing what they love,” said Emanuel after Monday’s shootings. “This tears at the soul of our city. It is the face and the consequence of evil.”

He talked of the Thanksgiving holiday, and how many of us would be blessed to be with our families Thursday, and of those families who would not be together.

“I ask each of us to hold our children, hold our loved ones all the closer,” Emanuel said. “Remember what is important in life, and that there are others who are part of our larger family who will have a tear, and a hole that will never really heal, and will always have a scar.”

Listen to "The Chicago Way" podcast with John Kass and Jeff Carlin — at


By John KassContact ReporterChicago Tribune

Twitter @John_Kass


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