The past couple of weeks have been a real test for the residents in our area. It started with two of our local sheriff’s deputies being shot here in my hometown, but thankfully, both will survive. Just as that shock seemed to pass, another wave, a much larger wave hit. In the wee hours of the morning of June 27, 2010, two Tampa Police Department officers were both gunned down, never having the chance to draw a revolver, much less defend themselves from being shot at point blank range. The purported gunman ran, and a massive manhunt was conducted. As if God were looking down with the mercy only He can afford, the elusive suspect turned himself in the evening before the scheduled funeral, allowing the entire Tampa Bay area the opportunity to exhale a huge sigh of relief to know someone who was being considered in three more murders was apprehended and being put behind bars.
Officers Jeff Kocab and Dave Curtis were both 31 years old. My youngest child just turned 33, so the mother’s heart in me is pierced and my maternal mind wanders, realizing how horrendous the pain must be for the women who raised those boys to manhood. There is also the wife in me, unable to comprehend the unbearable anguish the two young wives of the fallen officers must be enduring. To know Sara Kocab was due any day with her first child even as she was burying her husband brought great sorrow to all of us.
As I watched the televised funeral service, I viewed with my spirit as much as with my eyes. I could not help but notice that, although we have been receiving vast amounts of rain in the area lately, the sun came out just in time for the funeral procession to arrive at the church. I was honored and touched to know the families had, through the media, allowed us to be a part of saying “goodbye” to Jeff and Dave. Our pain can in no way compare to that the families are going through, but perhaps this community gained a bit of closure, through the graciousness of those families. It was through watching the service that I was able to see past their badges, to glimpse into their humanity. Their bodies were interred, and their souls moved to eternal rest, but their spirits will always continue to live every day, as long as we remember the sacrifice they gave and honor them through our own actions, words and deeds.
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and Police Chief Jane Castor each spoke. It was not until after the service, as I watched some of the replay that I actually considered the fact they were two women. Through their bravery and determination over a period of days, these two ladies bypassed gender and stepped up as strong leaders.
Idlewild Baptist Church was a most gracious and capable host. Much of their pastor’s message touched my heart. He mentioned that as they removed the body of Jesus from the Cross and placed it in the tomb, there was great rejoicing in Hell at the victory they had accomplished. BUT… three days later, the Light apprehended the darkness of evil, entirely changing the course of events. Similarly, on the third day the (alleged) source of evil and darkness, too, was apprehended in Tampa, and even in the midst of all the rain, a ray of light broke through for the citizens in the area. We could see a glimpse of belief that we were in a safer place.
As those attending the funeral departed the sanctuary and took their place outside the building, ironically, once again the clouds opened and a downpour of rain fell. It felt as if all of Heaven had held back their tears for as long as they could, and released them to fall on the site of such immeasurable sadness. Looking over the sea of various blue, green and brown uniforms, one could not help but notice how firm each officer stood at attention, never flinching, not even as they were being soaked. Many of them joined Heaven with their own shedding of tears.
Taps was played, there was a 42-gun salute, and the rains began to subside. A flock of white doves was released, and I couldn’t help but notice they all stayed very close to one another, darting back and forth overhead, but never leaving their comrades or the site of the funeral. I could not help but think of all the officers who were standing together in tight formation, there to pay their final respects, not moving away from their brothers and sisters in uniform.
It seemed the doves, as if in one voice, were communicating this message: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I am almost sure, if we were to have listened just a bit closer, we’d have heard Jeff and Dave whisper as they were arriving at Heaven’s gates, “Thanks, guys. We’ll be standing watch from here now.” Rest in the arms of your Father, officers. “Well done, good and faithful servants.”