I became a police officer 23 years ago and on my second night out I had an experience that set the course for my career and changed my life forever.
I was with a contingent of officers who responded to a shooting at a truck stop on the west side of the city. I was riding with the sergeant and when we arrived we saw the victim lying on the parking lot pavement bleeding from a bullet wound. His injury was fatal and he died moments after our arrival. It was at that moment when I witnessed his death that I had an experience I will never forget.
Although the shooter was still on the loose and things were moving quickly, it seemed that time stood still for me as a picture came to my mind of an older couple sitting in matching recliners and watching TV. I felt as if the wind had been knocked right out of me as I realized that this man lying on the pavement in front of me was somebody’s somebody. It was as if I was given a glimpse into his world and saw his parents going through their normal routine with no idea of what had just happened. Their world had just crumbled and they didn’t know it…but I did.
What an awesome knowledge and heavy responsibility for anyone to carry. I think that was the first time in my young life that I actually realized that everybody is somebody’s somebody. Everybody. Whether they are someone’s father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter, aunt or uncle, girlfriend or boyfriend, best friend or acquaintance…whatever it may be, everybody is somebody’s somebody.
God taught me a life-changing lesson that night in the truck stop parking lot and I have carried it with me to this day. I often speak of it when I teach at the Academy in hopes that our new officers will never forget the significance of the lives they encounter. I know that the moment I fail to remember that everybody is somebody’s somebody is the moment I don’t need to be in this profession anymore.
The events at Virginia Tech reminded me of this experience all over again. I heard one of the reporters talk about some of the officers who reported hearing cell phones ringing in the pockets of the students as they were carried from Norris Hall. The officers knew it was the parents and loved ones desperate for any word on their well-being. I can tell you what went through the minds of those officers…“They don’t know their world has just crumbled, but I do.”
Everybody is somebody’s somebody and every soul, every soul, EVERY soul that left the campus of Virginia Tech Monday morning was somebody’s somebody. Every soul.