As a result of the efforts, a few months later my husband and the other officer were given Awards of Merit in recognition for their heroism and quick thinking that night. Going to the ceremony and listening to the story being retold, I felt tears again. And when my husband walked up to receive his, no one smiled bigger or clapped louder than me. Well, except maybe his mom!
In just 15 short minutes, it will be December 18th. A day 5 years ago that will forever be etched in my mind and tattooed on my heart.
Rewind to 12/18/12. It was early evening. John was at work. He had only been assigned to patrol a few months and was fresh out of his training by a couple of weeks. I was at home with our son, who was a couple days shy of his 2nd birthday. I was also 35 weeks pregnant with our second son. My phone rang. It was John and his words were tumbling out so fast it took me a minute to understand him. It’s difficult to describe, but I could actually hear the adrenaline in his voice.
Do you know what that sounds like?
It’s a sweet mixture of relief, heart thumping fear, exhilaration, gratitude and a tiny bit of disbelief. It took me a minute to understand his words.
The first thing he said was, “I’m okay now.” I know that hearing those words should provide immediate relief because that would mean that 1) not only is he alive to speak them and 2) he’s conscious and coherent. I’ve heard those words before and they have ALWAYS preceded the telling of a scary, dangerous encounter on the job that could have easily ended in a visit to our door by a couple of uniformed sergeants.
This time, those words were followed by his retelling of responding to a 911 call where a young girl was perched on the edge of an overpass, ready to jump into traffic on Highway 62. Several motorists called 911 and he just happened to be nearby. So he hit the lights and sirens and got there as fast as he could. About the same time, an officer from another agency arrived. The girl was scared and didn’t understand my husband. He knows probably 3 phrases in Spanish – none of which were any help that night. As a true miracle would it, the other officer was bilingual and spoke Spanish. I have no idea what he said to her. Whatever it was, it made a difference.
Together, they lowered themselves to her. Barely hanging on themselves, they bear hugged her to the overpass. They had no harnesses. There was nothing to keep them and the girl from falling to the freeway below. They stayed there like that on that dark and icy December night until a fire truck with a ladder arrived and got into position below them. They helped her safely down and then got themselves to safety.
She left in an ambulance. And my husband came home safely to us that night. We would still have lots of chances to play, laugh and make memories together.
I cried so many tears that night after that phone call. Tears of relief that he was ok. Tears for the family who almost lost a daughter that night. Tears especially for her mama who almost lost her baby. Tears for the girl herself. What was so wrong in her life that the only solution she saw would be to end it?
I prayed harder that night than I can remember. I prayed first for the girl. I prayed that she would get the help she needed so much. I prayed that she felt the love of those big strong arms that kept her safe on the overpass. I prayed that she would continue to feel love as her journey on this earth continues. I prayed that God would continue to keep my husband safe in the future. I prayed that God would continue working through my husband to be a source of service, protection and sacrifice to others. I prayed he wouldn’t make me a pregnant widow. I prayed the same for the other officer. I prayed for that other officer’s wife, knowing that she was likely feeling many of same things I was feeling.
I thanked God for not letting the holidays be forever changed for the girl’s family or ours.
Every year on this day, I say a special prayer for the girl and wonder about her. I never learned any specifics about her. All I know is that she was a teenager and didn’t speak English. Tonight, when I pray for her again, I will pray that wherever she is, that she is loved, knows that she is loved and that she is thriving.
To say that I am proud of the man and the police officer he is would be an understatement. He is an amazing father to our three boys, a caring husband and best friend you could ask for. Whenever he can’t be with us because of work, I am reminded that there are others out he is serving who need him just a tiny bit more than we do at that moment. And I’m happy to share him if that means another family doesn’t lose a loved one or he can provide comfort to those who need it. Keeping that perspective helps me keep the home fires burning while he’s at work.
Our boys are growing up knowing their daddy is a police officer. They are too young to really understand what that means. We choose to focus on the fact that daddy helps people. And in the last few weeks, our four year old keeps saying when he grows up, he wants to be a police officer. And not only that, he also says that he “…wants to be on Daddy’s team with him.”
Having one police officer in the family is quite enough. I’m not sure my heart could handle two. I know that it’s not my decision to make. And now knowing that he wants to follow in his daddy’s footsteps, I’m going to add a special prayer for him every December 18th.
*Photo credit to Melissa Soto Photography