St. Joseph Missouri
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in October, I was getting into my car after shopping. As I started to exit the parking lot, I noticed people parking their cars, getting out and heading for the street. I saw people sitting and standing along the street as if waiting for a parade. I remembered that this was the day of the funeral of a slain Missouri Highway Patrolman and people were gathering to pay their last respects.
The previous November, the city grieved for a city police officer killed by a gunman who was walking the streets and shooting people randomly before being killed by the police. The funeral was held on a weekday, and the community had lined the streets to show their support for the valiant young policeman and his family. I read the news accounts with tears in my eyes as I thought of the officer’s family and his bravery. Now, less than a year later, another officer was slain by a mentally disturbed man before he committed suicide. And once again the community was turning out to line the streets to pay their respects.
I parked my car and found a spot where I could sit until the procession passed. As I waited I began eavesdropping on the conversation of two men who were standing next to me. I had noticed the middle-aged man and his wife walking across the parking lot and coming to stand near me — they were solemn and silent. But when approached by a younger man, the gentleman began to warmly engage in conversation.
As I listened I realized that these were the parents of the police officer who had been slain the year before. The father talked about his pride in his son, and that even though being a police officer was a risky occupation, someone had to do it and he did not regret that his son had chosen law enforcement as a career.
We noticed the funeral procession coming closer. The streets grew eerily quiet, with the only sounds being those of the car motors as they slowly passed by. Some people put their hands on their hearts, some bowed their heads. But I glanced over at the parents who were reliving the nightmare of losing a son to a senseless act of violence. They stood, holding hands with tears in their eyes, paying tribute to another “officer down”. As the mother of two, I admired the courage it took to come and watch a procession that they had been a part of so recently.
Each day the families of law enforcement officers watch them leave for work, never knowing if they will return. Law enforcement has many heroes, including these two fine men who lost their lives in St. Joe. And “somebody has to do it.” But to me the real heroes are the mothers, fathers and spouses who give their love and support to the officers so that we all might live a little more safely and securely.