King, a U.S. Park Police service horse on patrol in Judiciary Square (Washington, D.C.) in May 2011.
Photo credit: Tabatha Wethal
Year-end reflection offers a small window to tie up any loose ends that might be lingering, and with that in mind, this end-of-year note comes to you in two parts. Part one, King on patrol. Part two, the unfortunate tie between two generations.
Part one: King’s noble aura
Earlier in the year, I wrote about a Police Week photo I wasn’t supposed to share but couldn’t resist, even if in a slightly modified version. (“The photo you weren’t supposed to see,” www.Officer.com/10295913.) There are several other great stories and pictures we captured at Police Week this year that didn’t make it into our July issue (a few of them were included in this issue’s “Never-before-seen photos” section, Page 44). One in particular features the stately King, a U.S. Park Police horse on mounted patrol with his officer partner. I came across the horse the bright afternoon that preceded the 2011 Candlelight Vigil at the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial site in Washington, D.C. At the moment, the memorial was overflowing with the blue-and-white-shirted Police Unity Tour riders. Taking a breath outside of the memorial walls after having just watched a newly widowed young woman and her family set eyes on her husband’s name on the wall for the first time, I saw a tall, molasses-brown horse with its shiny coat glowing in the sun. I watched a small girl with dark waist-length hair ask permission to pet the horse, which she did gently, patting his muzzle and speaking softly. A couple honor guard officers bearing Fairfax, Va., patches on their left arms chatted with the officer on King’s back. A man in plainclothes approached a few seconds later, identifying himself as an out-of-state mounted officer in town for Police Week. A little while later, that officer got the chance to take a seat on King. There was also an inevitable pause for doody duty, which drew inherent chortles (though it certainly comes with mounted patrol turf). For the few minutes I got to observe, King helped facilitate connections and conversation.
The events during National Police Week at the memorial are moving in themselves, and within each event, there are these microcosms of experience; the image of King reminds me of the juxtaposing grief and pride of Police Week, where one can spend one moment with the kind, heartbroken family of a slain officer and the next with cops and kids delighting in a horse’s aptly noble aura.
Part two: Pearl Harbor Day
The anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 drew unforeseen feelings from some people, including a retired 82-year-old public safety chief who wrote in to a local paper (http://bit.ly/PHattack) noting that the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941 was equally destructive but he felt seems to go unjustly undiscussed. And the two attacks do share several unfortunate similarities, including a milestone year: while this September marked 10 years since 9/11, this December marks 70 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor. I understand the man’s view of disproportionate commemorating for one attack over another, but with the anniversary for both events so linked, I’ve found to think of one is to think of the other. In fact, many of the folks we talked to for LET’s 9/11 tribute referenced the 1941 violence, with Det. Roger Knight, an officer in Washington and retired military vet, telling me, “I guess now I know what the people felt like on December 7 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.”
Both attacks take a rightful seat in the hall of American history; I don’t think to commemorate one is to disservice the other. I’d rather set that notion aside and center on the unfortunate tie between the two generations. The infamy in both cases is unavoidable, but I’d like to amend President Roosevelt’s 70-year-old sentiment to say that rather than live on, instead may the infamy in both cases rest with these two instances alone.