Will Life Trump Guns?

Last night, our teacher David read from a book whose author asked the question about how you feel when you get up in the morning. In so many words the author asked his readers, are you ready to celebrate the day or dread it? David led us through a restorative practice, a practice I had never done, knew I needed, and was grateful to have participated in when it was over. My body needed to be restored and mind needed to release and relax.

The experience wasn’t bliss. There was pain, accompanied by plenty of uncomfortable moments. David’s words, the company, the sacred space, and the opportunity to disconnect all helped me become remarkably present in those 90 minutes. The gift was not lost on me. I thanked David, and gave him a hug, as Aimee and I walked to the car we expressed a collective sigh and gave each other pats on the back for going to the class. I told Aimee that the expression on her face was less tense, her skin color warmer, and her aura lighter then wished her good night.

An hour later, I laid in bed and thanked God for the week, with all its challenges and losses, both individual and global, and its wins. Then I asked for eight hours of sleep.

When I woke up and saw the clock, I knew my wish was granted (truth, when I checked my Fitbit later it was 8 hours and 4 minutes). Then I thought of David’s words. I approached my morning with anticipation and joy. As I slowly and deliberately opened the curtain, I stared at the gray sky and knew why this morning would be absent of the sun. Chicago will bury a good man today. And the weight of that loss will permeate the city’s limits for years to come.

The phrase “A day of reckoning” is what comes to mind. I’ve never thought of a battle as bloodthirsty, I’ve always believed it to be more about principles. And that’s what Chicago and the country are struggling with. It’s why other countries point to us, shake their heads, and with a heavy heart and discombobulated mind, ask “what the fuck happened to that country?”

We are a people of dreamers, innovators, crusaders, and more. Our principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness embedded with equality are absent when those who dedicate their lives to serving and protecting their fellow citizens and the vulnerable and youngest of our citizens who pledge their allegiance to this country every school day are shot down and killed.

So many of us ask, what can I do? Where do we begin? Guess what you can’t do? Order Alexa to find it for you.

Fellow blogger sorryless pointed that out so well earlier this week in To find your true self… be true

You can’t buy your true self on Amazon or cull it from a top selling book on stoicism. Nah, the self is truth. It possesses limitless potential, but it can also be an anchor for those who judge everything as a commodity rather than a gift.

The true self encompasses polarities that can either swallow or steel you. It can thieve your best intentions or grant absolution. Finding your true self demands introspection and it requires you to make difficult decisions. It’s a diet regimen for the soul. And as with any diet, discipline and patience are a daily requisite. Be mindful that failure and success are dancing partners. You cannot experience one without the other. So don’t be afraid of the yin, because it is your introduction to the yang.

For me, today, that means I’ll honor Paul Bauer and his contribution to the city where we both were born and raised. I’m thinking of Mr. Mantia, Mr. Connors, Mr. Harvey and my dad, who served as first responders, a term not even created when I was raised on South Francisco in the 1970s. They were the first firefighters and police officers who I knew. They embodied what it meant to serve and protect and they were Chicago’s finest. Now, I won’t pretend that the thought of my father being killed in a fire never crossed my mind as a child. While I never thought it would happen, I took comfort in the thought that had he died, it would have been in an effort to save another person’s life. What a noble death his would have been.

And that’s what we struggle with today. That’s the question we won’t bury today. What’s noble about shooting a police officer? I have been asking myself that question since I was a street reporter for City News. The quandary this country faces is this: When the right to bear arms trumps the right to life, who wins? Clearly, none of us.

I shared “Remembering a death in the family” earlier this week. When I thought about Bauer’s funeral this morning I went and dug up the hard copies. How ironic that it ran in the Family section, which used to run on Sundays. I forgot about my mom’s note. I never forgot about how honored I was to witness and share such a sorrowful and intimate moment. When I reread this earlier this week, I smiled when I thought of Terry Riley, who grew up on Mozart, one block over from me, and Jim Ade, whose family grew up in St. Thomas More, too. Thank you, Maggie, for letting me witness your loss, and allowing me to share it with a city that continues to lose its first responders, senselessly. Maybe, the loss of 19 years ago, coupled with the man you’ll bury today, will help life and liberty trump guns.

Today is what we make of it. As grey as it may be, I hope its fuzziness turns indifference into empathy, and ambivalence into action. My effort to that end is making preparations to walk my precinct tomorrow. At every door I knock upon, I plan to share this:


That’s how much Congressman Peter Roskam accepted from the gun lobby. Trivial, nope? Not when you live in Illinois, and your family still lives in Chicago, where guns have taken more lives than I have time or wherewithal to detail. Please find out how much your congressional member received here. If there is one thing that you can do this weekend, it is to open your heart, then open your mind, and then take action. Early voting starts next week in DuPage County.

Those numbers don’t lie. Nor does this one, there is one Democrat on the 18 member DuPage County Board. $5.9 million versus $106,000. Guns versus life. Who wins? Surely, not the silent. Today please honor those whose lives have been taken because we have not been brave enough to trump the power of the dollars and actions of the fierce and might gun lobby. We don’t have to be bloodthirsty, they have that covered, we just need to be righteous and principled.

gun lobby





Remembering A Death In The Family
June 11, 2000|By Karen Craven. Special to the Tribune.

Washington — “This is the only place in America right now where everyone likes us,” Chicago Police Officer Mike Sweeney says as he walks onto the grounds of the National Law Enforcement Memorial.

His fellow officers grimace and nod in agreement with the unexpected comment from Sweeney, a tactical officer who is better known for cracking jokes than introspective observations.

The group — made up of men and women, some of whom started in the department before the others were born — weaves through the thousands of people who, like them, have come to Washington, D.C., to honor their fallen comrades.

The Chicago Police Department barely had time to stomach the pain from Officer John Knight’s murder on Jan. 9, 1999, when three months later it lost Officer James Camp in the line of duty.

And now on May 14, 2000, a mild spring night more than a year after Knight and Camp’s deaths, 300 members of the Chicago Police Department converge on the grounds of the memorial with the sole purpose of hearing those two names.

Sweeney and his group, made up mostly of officers from the 22nd District, on Chicago’s Far South Side, stop at a space not yet occupied. Unbeknownst to them, the names of two other slain Chicago police officers, Michael Ceriale and Dell Fountain, are engraved into the wall directly behind them. In its total, the wall memorializes the lives of 15,139 officers who have been killed in the line of duty since 1792.

Silence befalls them. The black sky above does not temper the emptiness they feel and cannot shroud their grief.

Some in the group knew Knight, others knew both him and Camp, and a few knew neither. They say little. The eerie silence is pierced by the recitation of the names of the officers killed in the line of duty, then again by the soft sobs that follow. Around them, survivors kneel up against the stone wall and stare at the letters memorializing their beloved.

The group from the 22nd District seems oblivious to all of the sadness surrounding them until a little girl nearby winces when she hears a particular name. Her mother attempts to soothe her, and the girl tries not to shake as her sobs become more fierce. Several feet away, Maggie Engstrom raises her right hand to her face to prevent the tear clinging to her eyelash from falling. She fails. There are more to come. Engstrom stands silently now, trying to ignore the little girl’s brave but unsuccessful effort not to cry.

Sweeney stands behind her, the fingers of his left hand running over his mustache and lips. Officer John Foley wipes his eyes and abruptly walks away from the group. Hands are placed on shoulders, and quiet smiles exchanged as members of the group attempt to console one another.

The vigil that recognizes the 280 additions to the memorial, 139 of whom were killed in 1999, lasts about two hours. Its ending brings little conversation.

Engstrom doesn’t speak of the little girl until the next day, when she and 15,000 other people gather on the west side of the Capitol to participate in the 19th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day Service.

“I didn’t cry when I heard them call Knight or Camp, and I thought that I was doing OK, but then I saw that little girl, what was she — maybe 5 years old, and she was so sad because she understood that not only is her father dead, but somebody killed him. And that is the image that will haunt me, it is the one thing that keeps hurting me, because when you see the pain in others, especially that little girl, you realize what these people have left behind,” Engstrom said.

A 27-year-old tactical officer, Engstrom and her partner Dawn Melchert responded to the distress call from Knight and his partner on Jan. 9, 1999. Engstrom rarely speaks of that bitter cold day when she held a lifeless Knight in her arms and prayed over him until the ambulance arrived. She avoids questions about it, and says the reason she came to Washington was to honor the memory of his life not his death.

“First and foremost, you come for the fallen officer, secondly you come for their family and lastly you come for yourself,” Engstrom said.

Kenny King, Camp’s partner agreed.

“I’m here for my partner, plain and simple,” said King, a 10-year veteran of the department, who has since left the street and works in the Hate Crimes unit.

King, like Engstrom, rarely speaks of that day either. He shared his life with Camp for four years, good and bad days passing by in an unmarked squad, and remembers him like a member of his family.

“I feel as if I am still in a daze, as if that day never happened,” King said. “I never envisioned losing my partner and now that I’m here I am kind of blown away. When I look around I realize that we are all part of the same family and tragically share the same loss.”

Officers from New Jersey to Oregon pass by King. He says the weekend has been both overwhelming and comforting.

“What gets to me is just the magnitude of support,” King said. “You see there are a lot of other people who are sad too. Many of them have just walked up to me and said, `You know, I know what you are going through,’ and they really do know and that feels good because it lets you know that you are not alone.”

Nearby, Terry Riley tucks her hair into her cap and rubs the blue metal bracelet on her right wrist; the bracelet is engraved with the name of her great uncle William I. McCann, who was killed in the line of duty on Sept. 16, 1930.

A sergeant in the 22nd District, Riley is one of the dozens of McCanns who have been on the Chicago Police department continuously since 1884.

“I didn’t expect to feel this way because I never knew my great uncle,” Riley said. “But when I saw his name on the wall it was right then that I started crying. He was part of my family, and like all these other people he’s gone.”

Sgt. Jim Ade has been coming to the memorial services for six years and compared the events of the weekend to an Irish wake, where everyone is related not by blood but through death.

“Everybody here probably knows somebody who was killed, and whether they knew them personally or knew someone who knew them, it is all the same,” Ade said. “Even though we may travel here individually, we come together like one large family to honor all of them, the ones we knew and the ones we wish we knew,” Ade said.

Coming alone was important to Foley because he had his own demons to face. Four years ago, he and Knight came to the memorial together, where Knight remarked how neither of them would ever wind up on its walls.

“Now, as ironic as it is, we’ve come full circle,” Foley says. “We think we are immune and we are not going to die and the truth is we could go at any time. And coupled with that is this public perception that we don’t feel pain. But it hurts.”

Foley rejoins the group from the 22nd District after the vigil without a word.

“I didn’t cry too much before last night because I think standing there and seeing that name it finally hit me that he is not coming back, and I had to be alone to fully realize that,” Foley says. “Quite unexpectedly, though, helping me through this pain are these coppers from all around the country who appreciate what’s been lost.”

And although they appear to be strangers, Foley says tying them all together is a career whose job description includes the possibility of death.

“We are this unit that kind of parallels a regular family,” Foley says. “We can fight among ourselves, argue and disagree but when the chips are down and the bell rings we are unbelievably united, and that’s what a family is. Families honor one another and that’s what we all came here to do, to pay tribute to our family.”

The original story can be found here.

11 Thoughts

  1. Yes, I’m quite certain Alexa would throw her hands up- if she had hands- and tell you “I got nothing,”.

    It’s up to us. We, the people.

    I am in awe of the people who put their lives on the line every day. Who wake up to the very real possibility they might not come home. When I visited NYC a month after the September 11th attacks, walking into the precinct on 20th street was akin to walking into the Yankees clubhouse. Heroes, everywhere. Sad that it took something as monumentally horrible as that to make me see it.

    I am heartened that you took something from that post I wrote. The connections matter. Because it’s us, we, the people.


    Liked by 1 person

      1. Karen,

        You live in a town I fell in love with once upon a time. And your presence here, on our blog, tells me there is no such thing as coincidence.

        I needs to write more. And more.

        My principles are steadfast. My spirit sometimes needs an Alka-Seltzer to deal with all this shit in any kind of reasonable way. But hey, that’s the price you pay for getting older.

        Peace. And Chicago. And the world.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I am coming back to read this yet again. Third time reading it, and from here, as with a favorite book or article, I simply cull for favorite passages. And there are quite a few to cull in this one.

    Being thankful for just waking up. I thought of that this morning and it’s why I am here now.

    This won’t make any sense to you, probably. I’m rambling. But I’m trying to figure things out to a better degree, and like you said, it ain’t easy going all the time. No, it isn’t bliss.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think we have the problem of lenient parents. We allow boundaries to be stretched too far, then we snap back into authoritative mode.
    It would be clearer and fairer to enforce standards with small corrections before disaster strikes. What if the terroristic verbal threats of the shooter were viewed criminally: by parents, the school, Facebook, and the FBI? Kids are taught self-esteem instead of self-control and act accordingly. His narcissism, perhaps, made him the judge and jury and executioner of his peers? Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

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