Friday, July 8, 2011


Protecting and serving.

I was raised with the children of police officers and fire fighters. My parents always taught us to respect those professions. Mom often said when the spouse of a police officer or fire fighter kisses them good bye leaving for a shift, it may be the last time they see them alive.

It sticks in your mind and it’s true. Yet some people forget. They forget.

Protecting and serving.

Mom lived in England during the bombings of World War II.    Uncle Tom fought in Burma, Uncle Albert with Field Marshall Montgomery, and Uncle Joe was with the RAF. She adored her hero brothers and loved but sort of looked down on her cousin Arthur who never went OFF to war.  He didn’t need to-Arthur was a fire fighter.  Every day he fought fires after the bombing raids, yet never said anything just did his job. One day Arthur risked his life and saved the victims of a firebombed building. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last, but it was the first time Mom heard about it. Arthur didn’t talk about. It was his job, what he did every day.  Mom learned there were heroes constantly protecting us, the Hometown Guardians of the police and fire departments. It stuck in Mom’s mind forever and it was true. Yet some people forget. They forget.

Protecting and serving.

There are seminal events in the lives’ of every generation burned into your memory so vividly even the erosion of time never erases them. When they happen, where you are and who you are with stays with you forever.  For my folks and Grandparents where they were when World War II started, for Mom it was 1939, for Dad it was Pearl Harbor, the death of President Roosevelt and the nomination and election of John F. Fitzgerald Kennedy our first Catholic President.  I remember when JFK got the nomination Dad went out and we all stayed up splurging on Cheeseburgers from the new place called McDonalds.  It is only partially true that I’m responsible for a billion of what they sold after that but in those days it was still only 6 million on their sign.

We baby boomers remember JFK’s election and then his death, along with the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby.  The whole world also watched in July of 69 as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon.

For everyone currently 15 years or older September 11, 2001 when the Twin Towers came down, our Pentagon was attacked, and the passengers of Flight 93 sacrificed their lives stopping terrorists in a Pennsylvania Field was one of those unforgettable days.

Firefighters and police officers on duty and those off duty who came to help ran into those burning buildings and some never came out.  It was their job. It’s what they do. It sticks in your mind and it’s true. Yet some people forget. They forget.

Law enforcement and fire fighters from throughout America came to assist their New York brethren. The work was hazardous with the search and recovery conditions dangerous and toxic.  It was their job. It’s what they do. It sticks in your mind and it’s true. Yet some people forget. They forget.

Protecting and serving.

In the early morning of July 8, 2007 Grand Rapids Police Officer Robert Kozminski heroically responded to a family’s call for help and was killed in the line of duty by a coward with a shotgun.  The entire community embraced Officer Kozminski’s surviving family and little daughter.  Law enforcement officers from across our state and country came to pay him tribute as the color guard from his own GRPD kept watch over his casket and to attend the funeral.  Police Chief Harry Dolan led his department in the burial of one of their, one of our own.  I had the honor of riding in the funeral procession as we drove through the streets of Grand Rapids Northwest neighborhoods as hundreds lined the streets honoring our slain hero with flags, salutes, and tears. I’ll never forget being at the funeral Mass and graveside service. The Grand Rapids Fire Fighters erected a huge American Flag at the cemetery entrance with trucks and personnel joining other city employees present parading in solidarity with our Police Department.  Every member of our GRPD and their families knew it could have been one of them instead of Koz. Yet, it was their job. It’s what they do. It sticks in your mind and it’s true. Yet some people forget. They forget.

Protecting and serving.

Late May 2008, an Aero Med Helicopter crashes on the top of Spectrum Butterworth Hospital in Downtown Grand Rapids. Fuel leaking, flames blazing-fire fighters raised up the stairs joined by some off duty members and Fire Investigator Pablo Martinez days away from retirement, not even knowing his son was on the scene too.  Into the unknown they went, but the fire was extinguished and lives saved. Police and other emergency personnel were there too doing their duty as always.  None of them thinking about their own safety, it’s their job. It’s what they do. It sticks in your mind and it’s true. Yet some people forget. They forget.

Protecting and serving.

Yesterday a disturbed maniac slaughtered 7 people on the north end of Grand Rapids, went on a shooting rampage throughout the city, led police officers on a treacherous high speed chase, abandoned his vehicle, broke into another home and held three people hostage while police negotiators worked to save them.  They did.  Except for the killer taking his own life, no one else died because of the courage, competence, and professionalism of the City of Grand Rapids Police officers, fire fighters, dispatchers, and other public safety personnel along with law enforcement enforcement officers from our federal, state, county, and surrounding communities. We are one Kent- when and where it counts- in cooperation when help is needed.  Love and support are not limited by political jurisdictions. It’s a day people will not forget.

What happened with the murders yesterday wasn’t Grand Rapids.  The actions of our heroic public servants and the prayers, support and healing that will come from our caring community is!   

Exactly one week ago our family welcomed the birth of our grandchild Emily Grace and all we thought about was life.

I cannot imagine the sorrow of losing loved ones in such a fashion through murder and suicide.  Our prayers go out to all of the families involved and they will know the love of this great community.  They will heal and meet their loved ones again.

The neighborhood where these murders happened is where we raised our children. It is still a great place to raise children! Bad things happen to good people everywhere and can happen to anyone.

We don’t focus on how people died but how they lived.  Jennifer Heeren, 29, her daughter   Kamrie Dantzler, 12, and her parents, Thomas, 51, Rebecca Heeren, 52 along with Amanda Emkens, 27; Amanda’s Daughter Marissa Emkens, 10; and Amanda’s sister Kimberlee Emkens, 23 killed in yesterday’s tragedy will be remembered for their lives and love not the manner of  their death. We mourn for the living, the dead are beyond any harm and safe in Our Savior’s arms.  Even their killer has a chance of mercy much to the dismay of the evil one. The Blood of the Lamb was shed for all. 

As for our heroes, a bit of them died yesterday with the victims and their killer, just like every tragedy they witness or prevent takes its toll.  The killer’s name is broadcast around the world yet the majority of people will never know the names of those who protected with them with their  very lives yesterday as they do every day. That ok with them. It’s their job. It is what they do.

Protecting and serving. It should stick in your mind because it’s true.  It’s their job. It is what they do.

We should remember that always and never forget. Don’t let any people forget!


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