That's one of the things I remember most. The sound of 1000 footsteps marching in unison. In utter silence.
Brentwood Police Officer Stephen Arkell was being laid to rest on a beautifully sunny day, and other than the footsteps, you could have heard a pin drop. I don't know who plans ceremonies like the one given yesterday for Officer Arkell, but I'd like to thank them. It was truly beautiful.
I didn't know Steve, but I know that after hearing his fellow officers and friends speak - I wish I would have. I think I'd have been better because of it, if I had. And that's what came through during yesterdays ceremonies. That as brave a police officer as he was - his legacy will be one of a great father to his children, first. A hero second. Those were the words of Exeter High School AD Bill Ball in his speech, and they hit me right where I live.
As I listened, I realized that it is the sad truth of being a police officer. Most people never look beyond the badge. A cop stops them for doing 25 mph over the speed limit, and somehow THEY aren't in the wrong - the Cop is. And that is the way some people see Police Officers. Not all, mind you, but some. Others realize that the person behind that badge is a human being, with a family. They are husbands and wives. They spend days and nights on the sidelines watching their kids at sporting events and competitions. They lie awake at night worrying about the same things you do. Their kids, their home, their jobs. They are real people. Just like you. And contrary to popular belief, they sometimes hurt.
I sat and watched a sea of uniforms sit in silence. A sea of blue, with a mix of green and brown uniforms, brought together by the loss of one of their own. And thats what I thought about: Every one of them is a Father, Mother, son or daughter, parent or friend. And I'd be willing to bet that one similar thought crossed all of their minds: "What happened to Officer Arkell, could happen to me." I'm sure it crosses their minds often. And yet, still, they answer the call. They respond to calls to settle fights, to find and apprehend people who are nothing short of evil, and they see people in their worst possible moments. They know this, and accept the risk because they answer the call of duty. They're real people, who accept the risk of a job most of us couldn't.
Yesterday I watched as thousands of those law enforcement officers grieved in silence. And even though you knew their hearts were heavy with grief - you could feel the strength of their bond. It is that powerful. Its more powerful than the abject anger I felt of having seen this scenario too many times over the last several years. It is stronger than all of the criticism, both warranted and unwarranted, that they will ever face. And it is stronger than the fleeting thoughts of "that could happen to me". It is that strength that allows them to do the job each and every day. Their belief in serving and protecting stands in spite of the danger.
That's what Officer Stephen Arkell did. From all reports, he did the job because he wanted to be of service. There is nothing more noble than that. And his friends, and fellow officers did a wonderful job of honoring him and his family yesterday.
As a person with law enforcement in my family, yesterdays ceremonies were heartbreaking. I can't fathom the grief of Steve's family, or of those friends and officers closest to him. I pray for them all. I really do. But as I drove home, I kept thinking about the strength I witnessed. Strength in numbers, yes - but moreso in their unity. It was strength they all found in supporting their fallen brother. It was beautiful.
We should all be so lucky to have brothers like that.
RIP Officer Arkell. #87
May 23rd, 2014