To say that attending Police Week this year was a powerful experience is an understatement of borderline-negligent magnitude.
I’ve been told repeatedly by those who’ve attended it that “it just defies description.” That’s absolutely true — nobody has been able to adequately describe it to me.
Despite that fact, I’ll attempt to describe it for anyone who’s not yet been. If you were in DC this week, please help me out — add your thoughts and experiences in the comments area below.
A Whirlwind of a Week
To detail each day would be impossible. Suffice it to say, it was basically nonstop from the minute I arrived until the minute I left.
As I checked into my hotel late Monday afternoon, I ran into a few dozen guys and gals who’d just finished the Police Unity Tour, which raised nearly 14 million dollars for the NLEOMF. Later that evening, I was privileged to attend the Chairman’s Dinner, with dignitaries like Craig Floyd, Edwin Meese, and Suzie Sawyer — legends, all.
A visit to the Memorial Wall was first thing on my agenda Tuesday morning, walking the wall for an hour, breathing in all the energy present and seeing all the visiting friends and family. I paused at one point and thought, “This is what it’s probably like to be deep inside a slow-motion nuclear explosion.”
Meeting with friends — new and old — from Concerns of Police Survivors was a real highlight on Wednesday. We spoke about how we can work together to help surviving friends, family members, and fellow officers — a topic we’ll approach in the upcoming weeks on PoliceOne.
The Memorial Service on Thursday was the pinnacle.
I’ve gone to a fair number of police memorials sites — and attended police funeral services — but Police Week is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.
The nearest may be the remembrance ceremony I attended just prior to the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, held for the officers who lost their lives on September 11th, as well as those who died from injury and illness incurred in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero and Fresh Kills in the months thereafter. New York that week was amazing, and I shed many a tear in my visits to NYPD precinct houses, but somehow it was not really the same as what I saw in DC this week.
Even the service held for Oakland (Calif.) LEOs John Hege, Mark Dunakin, Daniel Sakai, and Ervin Romans — which so overfilled a 20,000-seat basketball arena that there was overflow seating next door at the baseball stadium — doesn’t quite compare. Close. Really close, but not the same.
Washington was as inspiring as it was tiring.
The sheer number of LEOs present at Police Week was staggering. But more than that, it was the ubiquity. Cops were everywhere — and I mean everywhere — at Police Week.
Being around that many crimefighters — for such a long period of time — was amazing. There were countless moments during the week when a chance meeting with some officer from “Anytown USA” left an indelible — and wonderful — mark on my memory.
A Confluence of Emotions
Seeing a sea of 20,000 uniformed law enforcement officers in a setting so somber is impressive, no doubt about that. But seeing so many small pods of families —all of them closely attended by their escort officers — leaves a lump in the throat for a long, long time.
Really, when it’s all said and done, we attend for them. They’ve given their loved ones to that Wall, and we owe it to them to give them more than any of us is ever going to be able to fully give.
It comes down to this: Police Week is a complicated confluence of emotions. Happiness to be among so many amazing brothers and sisters, combined with sadness, anger, and frustration with the reason we’re all present.
Police Week puts a tight hold on you from the very start, and lasts long after you’ve headed home.
Police Week is simultaneously a memorial service for fallen heroes, a support session for survivors, and a celebratory social event for about 20,000 officers from all over the country.
In one moment, you can be slapping the back of a brand new law enforcement friend from someplace else in the country, and the next you could be embracing a survivor of a fellow-cop killed in the line of duty.
One minute, you’re listening to hilarious stories from a circle of coppers, and seconds later you’re kneeling down, handing a patch to a six-year-old boy whose dad was killed in the line of duty.
“It just defies description.”
Yeah... that about sums it up.