I knew him.
A cop is sitting at dinner with civilian friends when the conversation turns towards the sad news of the police officer that was killed in the line of duty earlier in the day. Did you hear of the officer who was killed today, someone asks. Yeah, replies the cop, clearly angry and saddened at the senseless loss. As most cops have experienced, the common question is then asked. Did you know him?
Yes I knew him, said the suddenly quiet veteran. The questions continue, Were you coworkers? pries the friend. No I never met him, but I knew him, said the cop. Intrigued, but confused the civilian sits up a little straighter and asks for clarification. The cop looks away and says, I never met him but I knew him.
He was an idealistic young man when he joined the department. He sought a job but found a calling. He took an oath and swore to uphold his end of it to the best of his ability. He wanted to make a difference.
To protect and to serve. He wanted to help. He would never say that out loud for fear of sounding like a "movie" cop. As he got into the job, he worried about the dangers but put them out of his mind.
He had a front row seat to the greatest show on earth. The best and the worst of the human existence and he loved it but it also made him tired. It drained him. The daily toll of seeing people treating each other poorly can be seen in his demeanor. The countless victims of all ages. The fear that accompanies responding to a man with a gun call. Or the stress of pulling the limp body of a child from a burning building. The horror of collecting body parts in the aftermath of an avoidable vehicular accident involving a car load of teenagers.
The freezing nights directing traffic, the skeptical looks from attorneys when he recounted how he arrested the multiple time, repeat offender. The frustration of feeling the questioning, sideways looks from community members who painted him with the same broad brush when a fellow police officer is accused of misconduct.
The constant reminder of the everyday dangers he and other officers face as he straps on his bullet resistant vest and holsters his firearm.
The days and nights spent away from family and friends during holidays and special events because he had to go to work. The cold meals and endless cups of tepid bad coffee. He also felt the exhilaration of delivering a baby in the back seat of his police car. Of arresting the serial rapist who had been preying on the women in "his" City.
The special bond he shared with his fellow cops, but most especially with partner. His brother from another mother. The tears of mourning a fallen friend and colleague. All this he endured because he took an oath. All because he wanted to make a difference.
I don't know his name, but yes, I knew him.
I knew him well.
Thanks for sharing Sgt. Bill
Photo Credit: Chicago Police Department