Sometimes emotions run deep
There are moments in every person’s life where emotions run high, and words are at a loss.
I experienced one on Wednesday, May 9, while attending the funeral of a man I never met, but also will probably never forget.
Terre Haute Police Patrolman Rob Pitts lost his life in the line of duty the Friday before, part of a team investigating an earlier shooting death that day. He was shot by a suspect they were looking for at the Garden Quarter apartment complex, dying from a result of those injuries.
When I heard the tragic news Friday night, I couldn’t help but think of another Terre Haute police officer, Brent Long. K-9 Officer Long was fatally shot while serving an arrest warrant with a U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force on July 11, 2011.
Both these men gave the ultimate sacrifice, leaving behind young families.
I thought of the wives, the children left behind. The struggle they will endure as life continues.
However, these families are also courageous and strong heroes themselves. Remembering Long’s wife, who herself was a dispatcher at the department, stopped during the funeral procession to dispatch the final 10-42 call. That’s the signal an officer calls over the radio that signifies the end of the shift.
I cried during that moment in 2011, and yet felt pride in the strength of his family left behind to carry on his legacy. I cried again Wednesday.
Members of law enforcement and their families, much like those in the military, are a band a family united by community service. They often serve in the communities where they live with and raise their own family in an effort to protect and provide law and order.
I cried not just for the family, the fellow officers at the department, the family of the suspect and everyone who was involved in the tragedy. But seeing the community, watching them grieve the loss too was something that words can not do justice to.
Some examples I witnessed, included:
An elderly gentleman standing along the streets in Sullivan holding a white carnation in one hand while wiping away tears with another.
Several young people - probably 17-mid 20s - sitting on top of their vehicles holding signs of support and waving flags while listening to the funeral on their radios,
Speaking of that radio broadcast, you could hear it play throughout the community without turning on your own car radio, and people were singing along with the songs while waiting,
A young mother of two children telling them “why” they were there and “this is what a real hero is,”
As the long procession passed by people yelled to the officers “We won’t forget,” “God speed,” and “We believe in you,”
Many others held up their cellphones with the speakers as loud as possible, playing the songs from the funeral, some were singing hymns,
Flags were everywhere, including the Thin Blue Line Flag...
The “Thin Blue Line” stands for law enforcement’s separation of order from chaos, or, as Oxford Dictionaries describes, it’s a reference to police, “in the context of maintaining order during unrest.”
While the idea of the Thin Blue Line is one of past controversy, on that day it wasn’t. It seemed everyone in attendance understood what that symbol stood for.
There was a collective sorrow, a pain that unified a community.
I was proud to be standing there among the crowd, who, probably just like me never met the man who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our community, but we all wept and nodded to each other in silent reverence of that single moment in time that we will all remember.