I had been in a foul mood all morning. Not even walking at the park with my dog had managed to boost my spirit. As Cora stopped to sniff the grass, I wondered about the crowd of people I’d seen on our drive to the park, gathering at the highway overpass. I hadn’t seen any accidents. Why were they gathering? But then suddenly I realized it must be for the funeral procession. The understanding overwhelmed me, and I started to cry.
I had reasons for being in my dismal mood: not enough sleep, a looming to-do list, the irritation of dogs whining all morning, a headache. But who was I to feel such frustration and annoyance at the world that morning? I was alive! I was alive and going about my Saturday morning routine. I had that privilege, though I had done nothing in particular to earn it.
A courageous person, a police officer, in an effort to protect the people of his community, had put his life on the line and lost it. He wasn’t going about his daily routine on this Saturday morning, nor was his family. This Saturday was different. It was one coated in tragedy and anguish as the community gathered for his procession. Who was I to be taking the gift of life for granted, especially on this day? I felt ashamed of myself.
This was not the first instance, of course, in which a police officer was killed in the line of duty, but this time it was closer to home. It happened not in the urban city streets but within my community in a small suburban neighborhood that I pass through daily on my way to work. Perhaps this circumstance in addition to the two deaths I experienced recently in my personal life heightened my sensitivity to the death of this police officer. He was only 29. I did not know him, but I knew I had to go to the funeral procession and pay my respects.
I parked close to the highway intersection and jogged towards the overpass, feeling anxious as I crossed the road to the bridge. I found an open spot in the crowd along the railing and peered down over the highway below. The seemingly endless line of police car after police car and intermittent fire trucks from all the surrounding suburbs, cities, and even farther away places drove in succession in honor of the fallen officer.
Passers-by stopped in the road or pulled over. Couples stood together waving their flags and wiping tears from their cheeks. Fire and EMS officers stood on a parked ambulance saluting or holding their hands over their hearts during the entire procession. Parents stood with their children, telling to them what was happening and why, and teaching them about humility, respect, empathy, and bravery in the process. I was moved to tears over and over.
Everyday people sacrifice their lives for the greater good. I’m glad I had the opportunity to honor such a person, and in the wake of the procession, the least I could do was be thankful for the day I still had in front of me. The sun was high, the sky was clear, and I was both safe and free.