Thursday was National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day and even though this is a few days late, I feel it's always a good time for us to reflect on a moment in need when someone in blue came and helped us out. I personally have called on a police officer for a litany of things that range from seeing someone trying to break into cars in my neighborhood to literally being the schmuck who ran out of gas and was stranded in the middle of a busy Albany street. This blog isn't about one of those times. I didn't call on this particular police officer, instead he just kind of appeared and proved more helpful than I could have ever imagined.
On Thursday morning, Chrissy and I shouted out the men and women who work in law enforcement and encouraged our listeners to do the same. Buy em lunch, a cup of coffee, or just say thank you. The morning shout-out was a 60 second segment but many heard it. Including a local police officer who sent me a text telling me he appreciated it. This was the first time this officer ever texted me after we exchanged phone numbers over the summer.
I remember the August day when this particular uniformed Albany police officer walked up alongside my Jeep, wanting to get my attention as I was parking near my apartment in Center Square, Albany. I immediately rolled my window down as he approached my drivers side and I gave him a polite nod. He did the same.
He then asked if I was the guy on the radio, and I told him indeed I was. Not knowing what was I was getting myself into and feeling a bit anxious about the cop questioning, he quickly eased my anxiety when he told me he was a fan of the show and that we met at a country show.
I was flattered, whenever someone goes out of their way to tell me that it still blows my mind. Add to the fact that this is a uniformed police officer taking time out of his busy day to greet me, that made me feel pretty freaking good. I thanked him for what he does to protect my family and the streets I live on, and he shrugged it off - almost embarrassed by the compliment.
He then went on to acknowledge the work Chrissy and I (along with GNA) do to show appreciation for local law enforcement citing Blue Friday as an example, among other things. I told him he was very welcome.
Then something kind of unusual and strange happened. He took a deep breath, paused, looked right at me and said "You know, we see a lot of stuff out here on the streets. Things that you can't imagine." Then he paused, as if re-imagining some of the stuff he's seen over the years. "Things that I could never go home and tell my wife" he added.
He had my undivided attention. Sensing that he wanted to share more, but afraid to ask, I just looked at him and said "I can't even begin to imagine."
Then he started to explain why he stopped to talk, "I've seen you down here before and when I listen to you on the radio giving praise to police officers, just know that it feels good."
Humbled beyond words, what he shared with me next will never be forgotten.
The kind officer asked if I remembered an incident in Albany involving a situation a few months prior where a little kid was hit by a stray bullet during a random shooting in brood daylight. I told him that I did remember the incident but the details were sketchy.
"When I arrived at the scene, I saw a little boy who had been shot; terrified beyond belief, screaming in pain. At his side was an amazing woman; a daycare provider. She was holding and comforting him while the little boys blood soaked her clothes. She was cradling him in her arms waiting for help to arrive." This officer, was one of the first to the scene.
He spoke of the chaos of the day but spent more time marveling at the woman, caring for the child that wasn't her own but acted bravely as if he were. The officer choked back some real man tears and told me, "Brian, I went to the hospital with this little boy and stayed with parents as long as they would allow me to be there. I formed a bond with this kid, and I still visit him from time to time while he heals....but nobody would ever know that. It's just something we do."
There was something else in his voice that told me he wasn't finished, so again, I just patiently waited for him to explain more and he added, "People say horrible things about the Albany inner cities, but the beat that I work, those are my people, good people and it kills me when bad things happen to them."
I thought back to when he told me about how he's unable to bring certain things from work home with him and I wondered what exactly he was referring to. I would imagine there isn't one thing in particular. Is it the graphic nature of the real life violence that these everyday heroes see on the regular? Is it the disrespectful things that people say to cops, calling them names, throwing things at them, flipping them off, etc?
Maybe it's all of these things, maybe it's none of these things but I'll never really know.
I was out of questions and he had said plenty.
The more I think about that day, the more I begin to wonder how and why our paths crossed at that moment and that instance. The police officer was in an area that wasn't his typical Albany beat, and if I remember the day correctly, I had gotten home from work a good hour or so after I normally do. Perhaps it was so that I could tell this story, I'm not really sure.
That was August. Nearly 5 months later, he hit me up with a 'thank you' text on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day after he heard a simple segment on the radio show that made him feel good about his proud line of work from people who appreciate him. His text to me, made my day when it was supposed to be his. That's kind of what cops do. The good ones put everyone else first, selflessly.
So to him and all the other police officers who are reading this right now allow me one final thought: Stay Safe and Thank you. We know how difficult your job can be.
I hope you have the kind of day that you can go home and proudly tell your family about.