I am here with three Maine troopers, a sheriff’s deputy from Knox County and at least once municipal officer from Saco. When the members of our party introduce ourselves to Dallas police officers, they say “Maine!” in wonder, then thank us, with heartbreaking, humbling sincerity.
We were shown around the scene of the shooting by the Texas Highway Patrolmen and officers from neighboring agencies who were providing scene security so their brothers and sisters from the DPD could attend the ceremonies. It is smaller than I thought it would be, even weirdly intimate—there are the pillars we saw on television, chunks of concrete removed by the shooter’s weapon, small pings marking the places where police officers’ sidearms returned fire, right over there is the 7-11, where Officer Mike Smith was gunned down. Shattered windows and a small bulge in the building’s skin show where the bomb went off. There’s crime scene tape lying around on the sidewalk, and I have to restrain myself from gathering it up to take with me, as a kind of relic.
Four funeral services in as many days, with each of the dead receiving the temporary resurrection a memorial service can provide: we get to hear the stories, see the family pictures and share the same space with the widows, mothers, fathers, siblings, comrades and the little kids gazing wide-eyed at the sudden, surrounding sea of police officers (five thousand or so at a rough estimate at each of the funerals I attended) from all over the country.
I am trying really hard not to be angry. Trying not to snap when a relative eagerly asks, “Did you get to see Obama speak?”
“I got to hear Chief Brown speak,” I reply.
I got to hear Officer Krohl’s girlfriend speak. One of Krohl’s nicknames was BWG —Big White Guy. His girlfriend is small, and Latina. “He ignored prejudice to love me,” she said. “And now hate has taken him away from me.”
No one expressed the anger that I feel. This is more than okay—it’s inspiring; every cop and pastor (Republican Christians all, of course) expressed forgiveness, empathy, the desire to understand and to love.
After the services, we lined up in rows outside the churches, in our thousands. I don’t know what the others thought about as they stood in silence, at parade rest.
I thought about how much I love these people—all of them. And how unutterably proud I am to be allowed to stand beside them. We stand for as long as forty minutes, however long it takes for the family to emerge from the church. The buglers play “Taps.” There is an amplified sound of radio static, then the dispatcher’s voice is calling out the unit number. “Car Four One One…Car Four One One…” All of us, in our thousands, are waiting, illogically, for the answering voice. It does not come.