The other day when I got pulled over for my license plate debacle, I glibly mentioned that the questioning officer should perhaps busy himself with fighting crime rather than pull me over for some tedious administrative offense. Though I still partially stand by that idea, the last 24 hours have me feeling slightly more contemplative about the whole situation. I live in a fairly nice neighborhood in the outskirts of Sacramento and my 20 minute commute every morning is basically a nice drive down a major arterial street that makes its way through most of town. Yesterday as I was heading back to the office after lunch, an apartment building that I pass by daily was being swarmed by police cars. Then on my home from work last night, that entire section of the road was blocked off and vehicles were being detoured to other routes. I turned on the news to find out there was a hostage situation happening in said apartment complex and SWAT teams had set up shop as an armed man inside one of the units held a 16 month old child inside, while his mother had to watch helplessly from across the street.
Two years ago my cousin John graduated from the Police Academy. The entire ceremony was pretty powerful – all the uniformed, clean cut men and women seated in perfectly aligned rows in front of a giant American flag. The men in charge of their training outlined what they had spent the previous 8 months doing, and all of us listened intently swelling with pride over what a huge accomplishment this was for John. The thing that resonated with me the most, and the part that still plays in my head two years later was when one of the speakers pleaded with all of us who had come to support our family members up on stage: “These men and women have spent months training to spend the rest of their lives seeing and experiencing things that no person should have to see. And there is a price to be paid for that. They will need the support of their friends and family to get them through those tougher times.”
Obviously hearing that and thinking about my little cousin John (who isn’t quite so little anymore, actually) was pretty emotional. Though he has seemed to adjust into his new role well in the past two years, I think of those words often when I see any type of law enforcement officers – whether around town, in the news, hell, sometimes I even shed a little tear thinking about it when I see cops on TV. These men and women, these peace officers, these SWAT team members all have families or spouses, children and parents. They come home each night to their same homes nestled in the fairly nice neighborhoods of Sacramento and they download the events of their day just like I do mine.
When I look at these pictures that have been in the news over the last 24 hours, images that make me feel like I’m watching a scripted episode of some prime time television drama, all I can think about is how all those men and women are going to feel when they get home from work tonight – what they will tell their spouses about the events of their day, or the challenges they encountered. I think about the mother they are representing who is being forced to stand by and watch, of the child that they are protecting who is too little to help himself, of the intensity of those moments with their weapons drawn and the unpredictability of what is going to happen next, and all I can feel is gratitude -- gratitude for the officers themselves, and of course for the families that support them. It is a sad situation, and one that I hope works out peacefully in the end. And when I contemplate the severity of everything is going on in that little apartment complex that I see every single day, I think to myself that the least I can do is affix my stupid license plate without throwing a tantrum over it.
(If you have a minute, think some positive thoughts for that little toddler and his family today would ya. And for all of the officers trying to rescue him safely.)