Ledcat and I just returned from paying our respects to the slain Pittsburgh Police officers at the City-County building. We waited in line for about 10 minutes. We waited with officers from the Federal Reserve, the Port Authority and the state of Indiana amidst a sea of private citizens.
The atmosphere was solemn and reverential. We seemed to be moved along a quite a clip so I didn't have to reflect until we were through. I do recall the children behind me laying daisies at each memorial. A colleague of Ledcat's was part of the honor guard; she acknowledged us with a very solemn nod of the head, but a sad look about her eyes.
It appeared the some family members were present and clearly grief stricken. At the end of the line, we were ushered to the back door of the lobby.
That's where I had to stop. I had to stop because my emotions caught up to me like an unexpected wallop to the chest. I teared up and bowed my head. Ledcat came over to me and we left together as I tried to explain why I felt overcome.
First, it was the nearness of the tragedy. The reality that this could be S, J or R went through me like a chill.
Second, I just realized that these men died to protect us. It wasn't our neighborhood, but it could have been. We've had domestic calls a few doors away and I'm well aware of the illegal activities that go on there. I can't say they don't have an arsenal and wonder what might push them over the edge. One neighbor's son was due in court today for an arraignment on his third set of felony charges at the ripe old age of 19. This could easily be any of us and that is a humbling realization. I wonder if it will stay with me?
Finally, I am deeply moved by examples of purity — pure grace, pure kindness and pure heroism. Tonight, a fire truck was parked along Grant Street and a firefighter was helping to direct traffic and ensure pedestrians made it safely across the street. I recall during the procession for the Pittsburgh firefighters several years ago, fire-persons from other communities staffed the Pittsburgh stations so the Pgh force could attend the funeral.
We don't often get to see pure moments with our police. The irony of being moved by a SWAT contingent in full uniform is not lost on me, still there you have it. We often see them show up hours after a call and unable to do a lot about the drug deal that took place an hour ago. We see them on the news when really bad stuff happens. We experience that stiffness of a cruiser falling in line behind us as we drive anywhere.
The pure moments are far too rare in our lives. Last week, my niece looked up at me with sleepy eyes and whispered “I love you Aunt Sue.” My heart soared in appreciation and my soul bowed in honor of the moment.
That's how I felt tonight. Soaring appreciation tempered by the soul's deference to the honor these men have bestowed on those of us whose lives are a bit more safe now.
The hundreds of officers present tonight are as close to witnessing heroism as I ever hope to be. I want my encounters to be when we stop by Giorgio's Pizza and inevitably bump into a colleague of Ledcat's. I want to be slightly bored listening to shop talk and fascinated by the number of tools someone can carry on a belt.
I want to go back to the mundane, but never forget the moment of tonight.