Sometimes, not always, but sometimes I feel that I let him down. When I got that phone call, I was literally physically passing the hospital to pick him up at his school. Why do I feel this way? My answer, to me, is that Tim called out to me to come get him. My friends, family, priest, and therapist all tell me I should not feel this way...and that to feel this way is normal with any grieving parent. I get reminded that it’s a loving parent that will die protecting his or her child - I very much subscribe to this belief. It’s the natural order of life. Its like the night Timmy was born, instead of buying a baseball mitt or bat and ball, I bought The Lion King - talk about a father's love! Oh I wailed when Mustafa died to save Simba.
Tim took my Police Academy Platoon Jacket. I offered to buy him a replica because it was getting ratty...over 12 years old. He said "No Daddy, I like it just as it is...it fits." He told me he loved wearing it. A friend of mine commented about pictures of Tim wearing the jacket - Tim felt safe in it. They didn't know that when Tim was killed that was the very jacket he was wearing. To me it says, "My dad will protect me. My dad will save me."
It’s ironic that when I was on Homicide scenes and the parent would show up; wanting to breech the crime scene I knew what to say. "I am here to help, but I need you to help me by staying back. I know you're in pain, but if you contaminate the evidence I can't help the detectives find who did this."
The Friday after Tim was killed, his school had a Mass in his honor. Gi and I sat in the front row of the auditorium, now impromptu chapel. My partner, Jun and his wife sat with us for support along with Ronnie Sypherd from the FOP. I complained to Jun all week that I have lost my faith in all things that make me “me.” The altar was set on the stage, with the Archbishop giving the Mass; the student choir was in the pit area in front of the stage. Twin projected pictures of Tim were on the two screens on either side of the stage.
During the Mass, one of the girls in the choir began to teeter and collapsed. The next thing I know, I'm sliding on my knees and caught her before she would hit the hard concrete floor. To more of my surprise Jun was right next to me. Some of the female teachers came over, including the school nurse, and unbuttoned the girl's blouse and checked her breathing. It was too much for the girl - she was a friend of Timmy's.
After the Mass, I was allowed to thank the kids from Tim's high school for thinking of him - for the candle vigils, for the tears, for the simple acts of kindness. When I went on the stage to the podium to address the kids I could feel their full attention on me. I saw some wiping their eyes as tears rolled down their cheeks. I saw some look at me and then the projections of Tim.
When we stepped out a number of Tim's classmates told me about how Tim talked about my job - that sometimes he wished I wasn't a cop, but he was proud of me. Jun turned to me and said "Don't you ever doubt yourself again. You saw that girl was about to pass out and you caught her. Now if you don't understand why you were and are Timmy's hero I'll just have to back hand you."
I don’t know the girl’s name. I asked several people if she was okay. It was a hard week on everyone; I realized that it was critically hard on the kids at Archbishop Ryan. Looking back to that week, if it wasn’t for these kids, I doubt that I would have been able to have made it through the week, the viewing, and eventually the funeral. I think of the song by David Bowie, Changes…than and Space Oddity Tim had taken an interest to listening.
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through
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