Last night I sat in my recliner, remote in hand (yeah the typical guy thing) watching the tube. The news was on, nothing happy to report as usual.
A story came on about a 5 year old boy walking with a group of other kids to an after school care facility close by the elementary school he attended and how he was tragically killed by a passing motorist.
This story instantly brought back the memories of a fatal collision I investigated between a vehicle and a child on a bicycle. I will never ever, ever be able to forget that day. I've seen plenty of dead bodies and SIDS babies, but had been fortunate enough to not have to witness a child's body until that tragic day.
The Fire Guys were all around him doing their best for this child. To see a small child laying in the street next to a mangled bicycle, that vision has forever been burned into my mind.
I'll never forget the paramedic who turned to me with tears in his eyes as he looked at me and slowly shook his head no. That child I saw laying in the street that day was about the same age of my son, same color hair, same skin complexion. And that is who I saw laying on the asphalt, my son.
My motor partner whom I've worked besides for many, many years walked over to me and said "Do you want me to take this?" meaning the investigation. I think he sensed what I was feeling.
Needless to say, I had a job to do. There were many witnesses, most of them parents which needed to be interviewed. I was able to take their statements through their tears all the while trying my best to keep my tears from falling.
Of course the media, with their news vans and helicopters were there soon after interviewing neighbors to give them their 15 seconds of fame talking about the speeding problem they have on this street.
We were on scene well after midnight. One of South City's traffic and engineering persons came out to the seen. She had been crying, that was evident by her red eyes. She's a mom and lives locally, she's also involved in making South City's streets safer. She came out to the scene as we were wrapping up our equipment. She wanted to know if there were any traffic measures that could have been taken to avert this tragedy. Nope, she has and does her job well.
So after getting out of uniform and finally leaving for home, I sat in my car in the parking lot. Nobody was around now, so I sat there and the tears flowed, the ones that I had to fight back while interviewing "mothers" and "fathers" who unfortunately witnessed this tragedy.
The next day I went to the child's house and knocked on the door. There before me stood a man with a broken heart. I was there to return some personal belongings of his child. What can ever be said to ease his and his family's pain by me, an outsider? I offered my sincere condolences as I handed over a Pokemon key chain.
Dad began to cry, and I'll never forget his words.... "My son was my life, now my life is over....." I had tears rolling down my face as I gently handed over a small bag of his son's other personal items.
This was the first time ever in my many, many years on the "job" that I actually thought about leaving.
So while the news story ran about the 5 year old boy, I unexpectedly felt tears rolling down my face and cried. I thought I was pretty much over my experience. Even though, when I ride by that location where he died, I remember that day.... always.
Even as I typed this story, the tears came out. I guess that is a good sign, that after all of these years dealing with some of the scum of society, murders, suicides, etc., and how all of this "hardens" us, that I haven't lost all of my compassion or empathy.
I write tickets with a determination in my mind that I'm going to avoid another tragic day like that. It pisses a lot of motorists off. But I feel I'm doing my "thing" to help me to continue dealing with my feelings about this experience.
So the next time I or any other officer walks up to your driver door and tells you that you're getting a ticket for whatever violation, understand that we do what we do to keep you and others safe so we won't have to go to your home and tell a loved one that you're never coming home again...
We don't call them "accident reduction cites" for nothing.
To the Fire Guys who were there, thanks. I know you guys did your best to save that child and we all walked away from that intersection feeling pretty crappy.
To all of my brother officers and those who responded from our neighboring city, thank you for your help at what started out as an emotional and chaotic scene.
And to the officer or officers who have to investigate that poor little boys death, I feel for you. I know what you feel, what your going through and what you'll continue to go through.