Last week a brutally horrific murder happened in my town involving two parents and their young sons, aged 7 and 10. The entire community is mourning. And their are many members of the community that are working so hard to solve the crime, and comfort and community, especially the young children who were friends and classmates of the deceased.
I knew the police officer who was the first to respond. I know from experience that when you witness violence, you can never un-see it. My heart goes out to him, and all the other officers who had to go into that house to document the crime. They will forever have to live with those images. Our police chief simply broke down at one press conference, holding back tears saying “the children, the children”.
For days afterward, teachers were gathering at our house - first because Martha was getting more information from her police sources than were available to the press, and also because she is on the crisis management team for the elementary school these boys attended. She herself had both boys in her special learning classes. I was amazed that these teachers, who were so personally affected by this loss and trying to hold back a torrent of tears, continued to make the comfort and support of their classes their first priority. Although the strategy was different depending on the the grade level, these people held it together to make the days as routine as possible for the kids while still giving room for the inevitable questions and fears.
The surrounding school communities are also responding, sending social workers and grief counselors for as long as needed. Off duty plain clothes police are volunteering to patrol the school and keep out the frenzy of media. And parents and local businesses are bringing in mountains of food to show support for the teachers and police.
Having lived with a cop for almost 15 years, I know the tremendous stress they are always under. They see the worst of what humans do to other humans. Daily. And they never know what the next traffic stop, or house alarm, or domestic dispute will bring. I also know that there are bad cops and bad teachers and unfortunately, with today’s media focus, they seem to be the majority. But they are not.
So this week’s gratitude is for all those people who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us. Who have to witness the worst of the worst and get up and do it again the next day. For those who have to deliver unbearable news to the next of kin. Those who have to do autopsies on young children. Those who work extra unpaid hours to insure safe and calm environments. Those who drive the school busses in circuitous routes to avoid the unavoidable crime scene, still plastered in crime scene tape. Those who come to listen and help with the fears of little ones. And those who have to hold the hands and dry the tears of 5 year olds scared to death and answer very hard questions of 10 year olds, and still teach and maintain a sense of normalcy.
It can be a beautiful world. It can also be a brutally violent world. And I am very grateful for the people who are able to step up and deal with the ugly side of humanity. I’m sure I never could.
They are heroes.