I have always known that we are family in the vague sort of way that you can know something is true without really focusing on it or seeing it all the time. There is something about seeing law officers, their spouses, service members in the armed forces, the “civilian” employees of departments, firefighters, dispatchers, corrections officers, EMS personnel and security officers, joining together to honor the life of one of their own, that brings this commonality home to the heart in a way that’s hard to put into words.
Reflected on faces streaked with tears or those set firmly, iron-jawed with stoic determination not to cry, I could literally see the dedication that each man and woman in attendance gives to the emergency services family. There is a kindred spirit that we all share, a unity of thought and purpose that pulls us together when one of our own has given his or her all in the performance of solemn and sacred duty. We don’t all serve in the same role, but we all serve the same righteous cause. Officer Jacobs had the heart of a servant and warrior, as evidenced by his service to Greenville, South Carolina and to our nation as a Soldier. I didn’t know him personally and yet I knew him just the same, because I know the values that drove and defined him. Allen Jacobs was by all accounts the epitome of what we call here in the south “good people”, a label that is a lot harder to earn than it's simplicity implies, especially among fellow cops. Each person in attendance no doubt took something away from his memorial service that makes us just a little bit more grateful, a little bit more resolute, and more than a little bit stronger for having reflected on his life and shared our sorrow over his untimely death.
We can trust that this family will be there when the worst happens
From the amount of money donated to Officer Jacobs's family (although it can never be enough) to the tributes left on his patrol car turned shrine, the amount of caring for his family and coworkers has been nothing short of staggering. It is comforting to see how well the community steps up to take care of one of it's protectors when the unthinkable happens. Numerous businesses donated services and goods, and countless displayed signs of support for their fallen hero. Hotels gave deep discounts to those who came to town for the funeral. There were so many cars from different law enforcement agencies across the region (and beyond) that even after the graveside service was over, the procession was still underway to the cemetery. Every law enforcement officer should take comfort from displays like this. I think I speak for many a cop when I say that my biggest fear in this line of work is not what will happen to me, it's what happens to my family if I should be killed. Officer Jacobs no doubt knew full well what the risks of being a cop are, just as much as he knew the risk of being a soldier deploying to Iraq. He did both anyway, because his character wouldn't allow one iota less than a heart-wide-open kind of devotion to his family, community and nation. It is only fitting that we would return this devotion and stand ready to help his family in his absence. In the weeks and months ahead, we should remember his family often. Holidays, anniversary dates and birthdays will come, as they always seem to, quicker than we think. His family will still be struggling with immense grief and loss during those times. Pray for them and, if you feel feel led, give materially to a cause that will support them in whatever way you can.
The silent majority’s silence does not signal a lack of support
Each of the thousands of attendees at the memorial and citizens who lined the roadways to show their support for Officer Jacobs and his colleagues has busy lives. Each has coworkers, family and friends. Sometimes they don’t always get along, just as those of us who have patrolled a beat or done detective work don’t always get along with one another. The same goes whether you are riding a ladder truck, making a run in the back of an ambulance, or working a radio console. Most of the time the daily grind doesn't lend much in the way of time to express the deeper matters of the heart, to discuss or reflect on what is truly important. But in the hour when the need is greatest, the normal frailties and foibles of human nature are laid aside to expose what Abraham Lincoln so eloquently labeled the “better angels of our nature”. The silence of the majority in the day-to-day is only there as a byproduct of our nature as human beings, creatures who are consumed by daily needs and struggles. It’s as true of law officers and other public servants as it is with any person. But the silence of the majority is broken when the need arises. As the procession of police vehicles made its way to the town of Traveler’s Rest (and was there every a more fitting name for the resting place of a hero?) my eyes welled with tears on so many occasions. I saw thousands of people standing in silence with their hands over their hearts, or saluting. Occasionally the silence was broken by people calling out “Thank you!” to each car that passed. I saw banners, signs and flags aplenty. This was in the middle of a busy Thursday, a work day. Many more who couldn't attend expressed their solidarity in other ways. The simple act of taking the time to stand silently or to say the words “thank you” uplifted my spirit and inspired me in a way that I would not have believed possible. It renewed my sense of purpose and my conviction that, in our efforts to maintain order and seek justice, there is nobility. That sense of nobility is felt by good people and they WILL speak out when the time is right. I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank the people of Greenville and Traveler’s Rest, from the deepest part of my heart, for their beautiful expressions of love for their fallen hero and for the love and kindness they showed all law enforcement. In times of weariness and frustration, I now have a testament to the unwavering support of those we seek to serve that I can recall and draw strength from. I know I'm not the only one.