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December 22, 2014
The smell of Brasso is bright and shiny and full of fear.
Each time my dad sat on the side of the bed and polished his badge, shone his shoes until they reflected our faces, strapped on his holster, and stepped out into the world, we knew he might not come home to us.
It’s true for everyone, of course, but for a police officer’s family, that truth is never far away.
It came close, very close, the night a would-be killer took aim. My dad and his partner were standing on the steps -- the bullet that tore through his leg was meant for the other officer’s head.
His recovery took years and even now, decades later, we sometimes see him grimace from the pain of flesh shredded and imperfectly healed.
He went back to work, of course. He sat on the bed, a Brasso-soaked tattered t-shirt rag in his hands, day after day, week after week – preparing for his shift, his duty. The smell permeated our small house, reminding us all month after month, year after year, that he was about to enter into the unknown.
I wonder if the families of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos know that smell – a smell no longer one of fear but one of grief.
I ache for them. I ache for their loss, the pain of those who loved them, the wounds of the city they served. I ache for every family reminded again of the threat inherent in this job. I ache for revenge-soaked, tattered hearts.
I ache for Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner – and hundreds of people with names I do not know. I ache for their loss, the pain of those who loved them, the wounds of the cities in which they lived. I ache for every family reminded again of the threat inherent in a land in which race still defines who we are and who we might become. I ache for fear-soaked, tattered hearts.
Our pains are reflections, not contradictions, of one another.
We might change, the world might change, if only we could learn that, like a gunshot, grief echoes.