Photo by Shelia Cannon
Officer Alex was there on July 17
“I can’t seem to face up to the facts
I’m tense and nervous and I
I can’t sleep ‘cause my bed’s on fire
Don’t touch me I’m a real live wire..”
—“Psycho Killer”, Talking Heads
“Terrorism,” they call it. Domestic, foreign, state, bio… There is always a label ready made in a chyron generator to neatly fit below a local or global talking head when it comes to that magical word.
That label is a box, a nice opaque sheet to tightly wrap something in a container so that it can be discussed, dissected, defended, decried, and most importantly—marketed. And what markets better than “hate”? Nothing, brother.
Hate divides. Hate enflames. Hate moves. And therefore hate sells. And just when you think the kitchen of the week can’t get any hotter from all that? You shift gears and figure out a way to justify it to start the same show all over again, but now in the opposite direction. Act I, Scene 2, film at 11 and plenty of commercial slots for sale between now and then. That’s why news outlets love it, and that’s what industries known as “activism” thrive on.
But to cops? We have plenty of sweet labels to paste onto an event, make no mistake: Especially Aggravated Assault, Reckless Endangerment, Criminal Homicide—oh, lots of names, but when it happens we just start out simply calling it “a crime.”
That was certainly the scene this week.
Whatever happened here, once standing at the base of a road sign completely obscured by flags, streamers, and other assorted 4th of July leftovers, it almost makes you forget about the sounds of gunfire and screams and shattered glass that inspired this impromptu memoriam.
It makes you forget about the hint of cordite that may have filtered through the air and the uncertainty of all these things, and of course…the fear that was as palpable as any of these decorations or the signage itself.
Such an underestimated subject, “fear.” I once saw a movie that offered the supposition that “Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me,” the line went. “Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.”
It was a fascinating concept, but it’s also a load of garbage when you’re running towards the unknown that is made of the above described sounds and smells all competing for dominance in 93 degree heat on a clear Thursday morning in a park where you’ve taken your children in the past, and you’re now removing your friends on stretchers and strangers in armored vehicles in the present, wondering when the high velocity rounds would come your way again and if this was the last human being you’d have to pull out of this hastily improvised but well-crafted Hell.
Or if you’d be the next one someone else was having to extract under the same conditions, once you realized that cold sensation running down your midriff or thigh wasn’t a spilled drink or a splash from a puddle, but rather your mind reacting to trauma by cutting off pain, but forgetting to eliminate temperature sensitivity along with it. Experiencing one or all of those things…but having to press on regardless.
“Fear is a choice?” My ass.
“Criminal homicide,” though…now that is a choice. The ultimate form of “Hate.”
Whatever $20 label you choose to be most effective (or God forbid least offensive), that’s what it comes down to. And it is just as deliberate an act as it was for my brothers and sisters to plow head-on into that maelstrom on July 17 with nothing but the comfort of a pistol or a long gun in their hand, and the confidence in those around them that carried the day in a mix of emotions few truly know, but all recognize once they’ve been there, as they stack up with strangers and pour into the unknown, room by room, corner by corner, unknown by unknown with guns and resolve aimed forward.
“Terrorist,” they call him.
He was a “criminal” doing what criminals do making “cops” do what cops do. He deserves no more credit than that because I’m not scared despite his efforts. Just angry.
Save credit for the stories that will come from that hot, angry day after the FBI and NCIS pack up their equipment and the investigation is final and the stories can flow. Trust me on this.
We will tell you about our walk in the park that day that we will always remember, and no one would do well to forget.
When officer Alexander D. Teach is not patrolling our fair city on the heels of the criminal element, he spends his spare time volunteering for the Boehm Birth Defects Center.