Guest Contributor: Michelle Steppe
There is no doubt that our country has had a very rough year in 2016. A mass shooting of innocent people in Orlando, FL, a gator attack that resulted in the death of a 2-year-old child, a terrorist attack in Nice, France and a very heated Presidential election. So many defining and life changing events and all that we seen splashed all over the news and social media is how we tragically lost so many celebrities. Can you name even one celebrity who died doing a job that would ensure the safety and well-being of others? Yeah….me neither.
While the death of anyone is hard to deal with, I just can’t comprehend how the loss of a person only known in the movies can have such an impact on our society. Meanwhile, in the real world, the deaths of 140 Law Enforcement Officers in 2016, have gone virtually unmentioned and the families are left to pick up the pieces of their broken lives with the feeling that America just doesn’t care.
There was a time in history when being the spouse of a Law Enforcement Officer carried a certain degree of respect, honor and prestige. There was a time when Police Officers were considered heroes, mentors and pillars of their communities. There was a time when if someone asked what your husband/wife did for a living, you could smile and say “Police Officer” and receive a smile and nod back. There was a time when your children could proudly say that their father/mother was a police officer and be considered the cool kid.
Unfortunately, those times are long gone. Now when asked, we hesitate for fear of judgement and harsh scrutiny. Our children are taught to be careful who you tell because we fear for their safety from those who may want to harm them due to anti-police beliefs. We now live in a world where Police Officers are viewed as the enemy instead of the people you turn to for help. A world where society offers excuses and in some cases issues blame to the officers for the physical, verbal and emotional abuse they are subjected to daily. What the heck happened to our society?
I really wish that people would try to walk a mile in my shoes. Just for one day, wake up and send your spouse to work knowing full well that sending them out that door could very well be the last time you see them alive. Try living with a spouse who is a target of hate and violence just because of the uniform they wear. Spend a whole day terrified and jumping out of your skin every time your phone rings with an unknown number or when the doorbell rings. For some of us married to police officers, those fears too often become reality.
On December 25th, 2013, my family was unfortunate enough to experience that dreaded phone call. The one that starts out with “Don’t panic, your husband has been shot”. Although I have been asked on many occasions to describe my feelings after hearing those word, I simply cannot. I can ask you to imagine a feeling of helplessness, despair, anger, fear, confusion, disbelief and gut wrenching physical pain. Now, roll all that into a single feeling that occurs all at once. It feels like that. I don’t expect that anyone would ever be able to comprehend what I’m trying to describe because unless you have been through it, you will never get it. Fortunately for me, I was one of the lucky ones, my husband survived his physical injuries but the emotional wounds I fear will never heal.
Unfortunately, I am not alone in this experience. Day after day and across our nation, the reality of the situation is that more and more people are experiencing that feeling. At some point, society decided that being a police officer no longer warranted respect from the citizens these brave and selfless men and woman take an oath to protect. Society decided that these men and woman, who make a choice every day to leave the comfort and safety of their families and homes, are now open targets for hate and slaughter. Society decided that these men and women are not allowed to do a job that we demand them to do without fear of being murdered while having lunch with coworkers or pumping gas in their vehicles. When will society say enough is enough and recognize there is a war on our Law Enforcement community? We are only three weeks into 2017 and the bloodshed continues.
You can sit there and cry your eyes out for these celebrities who passed away. Mourn the loss of the person you never even knew because they did so much for you playing a role in your favorite movie. As a proud wife of a Police Officer, I say ENOUGH! Get a clue America. I for one will not be mourning celebrity loss with you. I will instead pay my respects to those men and women who serve our communities and country daily. I will mourn the loss of those men and women who put on their uniforms day in and day out to do a thankless, unappreciated job for people who show them nothing but contempt. I will mourn the loss of those men and woman who know that they will never be honored with some fancy golden award, will never be rich and may someday have to give their own lives to save the life someone they don’t even know. I know in my heart that there are others out there who share these feelings. I pray that they come forward to take a stand with me and with our Law Enforcement Officers to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.