"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Procession


When I reached the onramp to the highway which would take me to the freeway which would take me home, the sight of cars lined up bumper to bumper for as far as visibility extended made my heart sink. Mark, the brother I'd been staying with near Tacoma (who generously piloted me to the highway) had been listening to the morning traffic report on the radio. Traffic was plugged all the way to the freeway - several miles up the road - and would be for some time to come.

We both knew the memorial service was later that day in the Tacoma Dome, but thought it was far enough north that it wouldn't impact my travels south. That was before we knew every police department who was sending representatives to the service was meeting at McChord Air Base. Right where the highway meets the freeway. While the service wasn't scheduled to start until 1:00, the caravan of police cars was to head north from McChord at 10:00.

I crept onto the highway at 8:00.

For more than an hour I sat wedged in traffic that moved inches at a time, feeling more reverence and gratitude than impatience. My fellow travelers seemed to be in the same place. No one tried to change lanes to jump ahead a few cars. There was no zooming or screeching or honking. Just clouds of car breath in the bright arctic morning air, and a stillness tinged with sadness and respect.

At one point a dozen police cars and motorcycles sped up the left shoulder, lights flashing. The cars in the left lane, nowhere to go really, turned wheels to the right in a move that looked for all the world like they were bowing.

Farther along, a caravan of limos with a huge motorcycle escort came onto the highway. The exit they merged from was near the restaurant where four police officers were gunned down a week ago as they sat enjoying their morning coffee. I wondered if I was seeing the families of the slain officers, and sent my heart out to partners and children who are living the cost of sacrifice those four officers made.

When the line of traffic finally delivered me to the freeway entrance - north to Seattle, south to Portland, straight ahead to McChord - I was stunned by what I saw. Police cars and motorcycles of every make and model, from multitudes of places, lined up parallel to the freeway, coming from the north, beyond my line of sight. Every one had its lights flashing, and each waited patiently to be signaled ahead to find its place in the memorial procession that would return north in just an hour.

As we (in that hour of waiting, watching, and witnessing my fellow travelers and I became "we") rounded the bend that would take us to the freeway, each car slowed a bit. Even though the road ahead was clear and we'd been held back for a very long time, we paused. I know in part it was because the sight of all those police officers in one place was astounding. But I know too that we sent our love, our condolences and our deepest respect and gratitude as we left our accidental procession and zoomed ahead into our everyday lives. Lives made easier and safer by these people gathered in unity to honor their fallen comrades, and to remind us all how very fortunate we are that there are those who are willing to die for our freedom.

photo from Flickr: police memorial in Ohio

13 comments:

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

That was very moving Deb. What a horriable tragedy those four deaths were. Thank you for reminding me.

M said...

Beautifully written. You might want to considere forwarding this in some way to the Lakewood police dept. The website is http://police.cityoflakewood.us/

It was a moving site and the memorial service was amazing. Such a senseless tragedy.

Love
Mark

Tabitha Bird said...

Oh that was lovely. Yeah, forward it on like M said.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"Lives made easier and safer by these people gathered in unity to honor their fallen comrades, and to remind us all how very fortunate we are that there are those who are willing to die for our freedom."

Indeed, and how often we forget this.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Ditto Mark and Tabitha!

Beautiful.

Amber said...

Beautifully said, But so sad. Things like that are just so horrible...

:(

Wanda said...

Ditto Mark, Tabitha, and Carrie.

Jerri said...

What a sight that must have been. Thank you for showing it to us here. This is beautifully written.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Very touching tribute Deb. I love to hear stories of people coming together under difficult circumstances, it restores my hope in the human condition.

Pam said...

Yes Deb, do forward it on to the Lakewood police dept.It is very touching.Being overseas,it is the first I've heard of this incident. What a tragedy.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Lovely tribute and reminder to us all.

colbymarshall said...

So sad, but what a great reminder of the heroes we have to be thankful for!

kario said...

I agree that this ought to be published in the paper for more to read. Bubba and I attended a benefit for the officers last night and the sentiment was one of community and togetherness and support and it was such a fitting beginning to the holiday season.