Thursday, March 18, 2010

In Memoriam

I’ve been debating on writing this for about a week now. One reason is that I use this space for goings on in my own life, not that of others; and the realities of this tragedy truly rocks me to my core in that I know this could happen to me.

On the Friday night of March 5, this officer was killed in the line of Duty in Georgia. He was not among the team that my husband supervises.

While working in Texas, my husband would give new Federal Law Enforcement Officers further training after they complete the academy. Officer Upton worked with David for about 6 weeks 4 years ago. He brought his wife and baby with him, which was unusual.

We had them to dinner in our home a few times and I tried to share with his wife some activities she and her baby could do while her husband worked. She and I had exchanged Christmas cards until this last year when I’m sure she didn’t have our new address. These were people we knew…..

As the above link states, “He was on patrol at 11:00 pm when he was struck by a shot fired by the hunter. The shooter was in a two-person hunting party hunting coyotes with a high-powered rifle equipped with night vision. After realizing they had shot an officer, the hunters called 911 and reported the incident.”

I cannot get my brain around the fact that he went to work on Saturday afternoon, just as he did every Saturday, and as my husband did for 11 years – but this time he did not come home. He was doing something he’s no doubt done hundreds of times – check hunters, but this time all went horribly awry.

For those who are unfamiliar, “YES” there is law enforcement in the Forest Service and they are NOT Park Rangers (a sore spot for both agencies). People conjure images in their heads of the bumbling “rangers” from the “Jelly Stone” cartoons from years back. This could not be further from the truth. These are well trained men and women with guns and weapons a'plenty.  The crimes committed on wilderness owned by the government are as varied as they are heinous. There are few officers who patrol these millions of acres that were set aside so Americans could have paper, have water, fish, camp, hike, hunt and cook methamphetamine, steel timber, start fires, rape, murder and all other means of pillage and plunder.

Although this post is to memorialize Officer Upton, I feel I need to memorialize my loss of innocence and sense of security- yet again.

My husband is one of the few people I know who A) has known what he wanted to do with his life at an early age and B) loved it once he started doing it. His job with Forest Service Law Enforcement began 11 years ago in Texas. It’s only baptism by fire in this occupation. During his first week on the job his boss, who was hundreds of miles away in Lufkin, Texas; drove to Denton, Texas to, among other things, learn where our house was. This was so that should he have to deliver any ‘news’ to me, he wouldn’t have to rely only Mapquest and a GPS to get to my house to undoubtedly bring me news that would bring me to me knees….

During his 2nd week working in Texas he, and a veritable posse of men from various agencies stalked 7 Texas prison escapees. They did not find them, but were close enough on their tails that the “posse” found their still smoldering fire.

Since then he has been called out in the middle of the night more times than I can count. He’s been in chases. Bad guys have called me looking for him so they could turn themselves in. There have been helicopter crashes, suicides and injuries and arrests of every imaginable kind. At one point his office and he smelled so strongly of marijuana that no one could bear to go in.

Two times stand out most in my mind. The first was his first “big” arrest. This was a bad guy doing horrible things. The arrest was caught on the dash camera of the vehicle. Several in law enforcement officers were involved in this. Husband was strutting around like the cock of the walk over this arrest. He wanted me to see it. I said no. He insisted. I did not witness what you see on “Cops”- A badge heavy officer restraining a drunk, half clothed, red neck. The men I saw who were arresting this man were strong, and loud and purposeful and effective. I could not watch him do that. The place in my conscious where I put his job and the tasks therein collided with the father and husband that he is at home.

The second time haunts me more than the first. It began with a phone call at bedtime - bad situation on the property involving hostages and guns. I did not know that at the time. On the “Today” Show the next day was an unfinished story of a standoff in North Texas. “An undetermined number of fatalities had occurred and the gunman was still held up.” Since by now we had a baby I had to remain calm. Five minutes later he called and I was finally able to breathe again.

Like military wives, I have to compartmentalize what he does for a living. I can’t fully be present in the reality of his day to day job if I want to stay sane. Last year my husband received a promotion and we moved to Cleveland. Don’t get me wrong: He’s directly in harm’s way a fair amount of the time. But it is less that his previous assignment. That’s one good thing I can say about Tennessee.

This brings me back to Officer Upton. He wasn’t even doing any of these high profile, high risk activities. He was being a diligent officer and was killed while doing it. It appears that his shooting was accidental. In my opinion there was a fair amount of stupidity and a colossal amount of deadly carelessness.

My husband had to usher and carry out other official duties at his high profile memorial service. This prevented me from attending as I felt called to do. People from all over the country who knew him About 1000 people were there.

I wish I knew how his wife was - really. I pray for her daily. I also pray for the men who committed this crime. This will be investigated and reenacted until all questions are answered. That I know. I also know that those with much more qualified than I will decide their fate.

BUT THIS I KNOW FOR SURE: Christopher Upton is with his creator right now. For my own humanly comfort I hope his final moments were not filled with pain and fear.

His wife a joined a club with a lifetime membership – that of a wife widowed too early.

And, unless they are sociopathic monsters (there is no reason to assume this) the shooters will have their own hell to live with. This will be a hell they live in until they no longer live.

In Memoriam: Christopher Upton
December 1972- March 2010

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