I walk into the dark, cold room. Its 0645, and the early Sunday morning is as gloomy inside as it is outside. In a moment, I will put on my headset. I will say a silent prayer as I plug in the thin black ear piece connecting me to the world outside of these thick walls. I will pray that my 8 hour shift is full of laughter. I pray that the silence is a good thing, and the sounds of 911 calls all start with the infamous words, “well this isn’t an emergency, but…”.
When I log into the currently blank dark screen I will see names. Names representing the officers lives that I protect today. Those small, uniformly typed names constitute the few but precious people that depend on me today.
Two of our officers walk in, their presence both a blessing and a curse. You see, when this particular duo of men are on duty, together, you know that you can expect laughs and taunting. It’s all in good fun, really. But when the phone rings, and I try to tune every one of my overwhelmed senses into that desperate community member, these two hooligans sometimes keep going. It’s not just these two, that have this habit. Most of the officers in the department routinely come in to talk and have a good time. Distracting, yes. But, having it any other way means spending most of the day in my own thoughts. I can hear one ask the other “Good lord, who are we mourning now?”.
He’s joking, but serious all in one sentence. Its a daunting question, one that stops all 4 people in the room cold in their tracks. The words lingering over our heads like a black cloud that just wont go away.
The response: “Dude, there were like 3 officers killed in the last 3 days.”
That’s it. That’s the response.
Immediately I hear my heart break a little more than it was before. Although I had known of these murders, it has become a sad reality that every time I turn around I learn of another officer down. Another family that has lost a member. I see more wives, crying the most ugly cries they have ever cried, as they are handed that flag folded into a triangle. I become aware of the child, that won’t let go of the casket, or the K9 paying it’s respects.
That thin black line of elastic used to be so rare no one really knew what it meant. I used to just stare, wondering why it was placed so strangely around the points of the badge. When my husband and I went to that funeral only a few short years ago, you know the one where the masses of departments showed up, we couldn’t even find a tie let alone that 2 inch piece of elastic.
But now, it is common. And the names of the mourned, are rarely rambled off when asked. It has become routine to say, “the 3 officers” or “the officer ambushed in this town”.
It has become a regimen to put on that elastic, and never have to answer the question as to whom was killed.
That, is a tragedy.
I am thrown into the fact that those strategically placed names on my screen are in danger. For no reason other than what the media, and the communities have portrayed them to be. The gloomy darkness that was once just the weather, stays all 8 hours. It stays locked in my mind as I send an officer out the door to respond to a simple car unlock.
I will watch the clock mercilessly until you are back 10-8. Yes, I will check on you in 5 minutes. Yes, I will worry if something sounds funny on the radio. Praying, that we are not the next headline.
Praying, that I am not that wife clinging to that flag.
Praying, that my children don’t have to cling to a casket as it is taken out of a building filled with people I don’t even know.
Praying, that that elastic band can be taken off that badge.
This is our reality, and it is a tragedy.