From our vantage point, sitting in the car, it looked as if every police officer from Missouri came to give their respects. The procession included ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars. The streets were lined with community members. We could hear a helicopter in the distance.
The town of Clinton, Mo., was once again grieving the loss of one of their police officers. The first death took place seven months to the day of the second one. First a traffic stop and now a shoot-out while responding to a 911 call.
My family and I live 45 minutes away from Clinton but go there every week for my daughter’s speech therapy. As we pulled out of the office parking lot we were met by the procession. At a standstill, we waited half an hour as one police car after another passed. The streets were lined with flags. The main street had a large American flag across the entire stretch of road.
I turned my car off.
As we waited and watched I first thought of how I needed to get home. How tired I was from a fussy baby up in the middle of the night. How the kids needed naps. How much of an inconvenience it was to sit and wait. And then I stopped myself. I was alive. My children were laughing and smiling in the backseat. I wasn’t grieving the loss of a loved one. I wasn’t putting my life on the line every day. I wasn’t recovering from a bullet wound.
I talked to my three-year-old daughter about why we were stopped. She cheered as the police cars and fire trucks drove by with their lights flashing. I read the names of cities where the police cars came from all across the state. Men and women coming to give thanks for the life of the man who died. Men and women coming to grieve.
Men and women showing up.
And that’s what my family and I did. We showed up. It wasn’t our intention to be at a standstill surrounded by the procession. But that’s where we found ourselves. And as we waited and watched, I couldn’t help but think of the power found in being present to one another. Being present in community. Even a community we may not know.
Offering our lives for the sake of the other. That’s what Officer Ryan Morton did.
So often today we put people and groups on one side or the other.
You’re either for police officers or you’re not.
You’re either for black lives or you’re not.
You’re either for the LGBTQ community or you’re not.
But underneath all the labeling and naming and putting into groups are people. People with lives and loves and jobs to do. People with hopes and dreams. People with families. People who look out for the neighbor. People like Officer Ryan Morton.
As the procession passed, I watched and I prayed.
Fervent prayers that death at the hands of drugs and addiction will end.
Prayers for the family and friends grieving the loss of Officer Ryan Morton.
Prayers for the police force of Clinton and all first responders.
Prayers that our lives do make a difference.
Prayers that we remember the power in showing up.
Over and over again.