Declaration of Independence – July 4, 1776:

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Memories of Dad

Independence Day was one of Dad’s favorite holidays and the source of some of my most cherished childhood memories. My dad loved fireworks, homemade ice cream, and watermelon. I have many wonderful memories of tasting the salt water as it leaked out as Dad cranked to make the ice cream. Like most kids, I would drive Dad crazy asking him over and over if the ice cream was done. There is nothing quite as good as homemade ice cream. Something I miss in today’s modern world.

In stark contrast to most of my memories of Dad, Dad would behave like an irresponsible adolescent when it came to fireworks. One of the funnest things I can remember was Dad and his friends from the CSP using various items to aim bottle rockets as they shot them off at the end of the street. They would even hold onto the bottle rockets and black cats before they threw them in the air just after lighting the fuse. Safety was not their first thought, yet fortunately I do not recall anyone getting hurt. Of course, this is something I would never let my children do today.

As much as I treasure these memories of Dad, I am humbled by the historic significance of Independence Day. Over two hundred years ago fifty-six men of diverse backgrounds worked through their differences to reach an agreement of the highest ideals proclaimed in the “Declaration of Independence”. These men risked everything for the belief that men of all walks of life had been given the right from the creator to govern themselves. After thirteen bloody hard fought years, twenty-three of the thirty-nine men that signed the “United States Constitution” were veterans that had fought and survived the Revolutionary War to guaranteed Americans these historic freedoms we all enjoy today.

I am astounded of the bold impassioned words first drafted by Thomas Jefferson with the aid of both John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. In one sentence, these men were able to captured the core character that would shape democracy of both our country and the world:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It is impossible to appreciate in today’s world how radical the concept that it was “self-evident, that all men are created equal”. The foresight and determination of these men to see that these words would survive all the debates and remain listed so prominently in this document is astonishing considering the obvious contradictions of the society of that time. Although the atrocious practice of slavery would remain in practice for nearly another century, the genesis of the abolition of slavery would be the belief in these very words written by Thomas Jefferson (himself a slave owner).

This radical concept would guide James Madison as he drafted the beginning of the constitution with the prominent words “We the People”. With these three words, Madison established the basis of democracy. It would be these three words that would inspire Abraham Lincoln to say in his iconic Gettysburg Address, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” It is this revolutionary idea that guides not only our country, these words are the basis of every democracy in the world today. 

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Genealogy research disclosed that I am blessed to be the direct descendant of at least nine dads that fought and served as privates in the front lines of the American Revolutionary War. It is due to their scarifies that today I enjoy the freedom of speech and freedom of religion which allows me to type this blog. Because of men like them, and the many patriotic men and women that have followed their example to fight to preserve this radical experiment, democracy lives on “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

This day serves as a reminder to all of us that we should never forget the legacy that has been passed on to each and everyone that is blessed to live in this great country. My dad made it a point that I should always strive to do what I knew in my heart was the right thing to do, just as we are taught in the Bible. For if each of us (the people) continues to strive to actively do what is right, setting aside our differences to work together, the freedom of democracy “shall not perish from the Earth.

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God bless America!

 

 

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

End of Watch – Part 1

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As Patrolman Carpenter entered the westbound on-ramp (see: Day Shift – December 27, 1973), Dad noticed a light blue 1964 Chevrolet Impala coupe pulled over on the far right shoulder. As Dad pulled up behind the 1964 Chevrolet Impala, Dad switched on his overhead red emergency lights and parked his patrol car (CSP Car #181) right behind the stalled Impala. Apparently not noticing anything that concerned him, Dad again did not notify the CSP Dispatcher of the stop. Dad was following CSP standard operating procedures for checking with the occupants of a disabled vehicle to determine if any assistance was needed. This was the same routine Patrolman Carpenter had followed a hundred times before.

Before Patrolman Carpenter even exited his patrol car, Dad would have noted the exhaust in the crisp cold air coming from the still idling 1964 Chevrolet Impala. With bits of rust showing through the faded paint along the trim and other spots of the nine-year-old Chevy, the well-used 1964 Impala had the same grungy appearance of the young occupants. The driver was a young black male with medium Afro hairstyle hair, a slight build, and was wearing a dark coat (possibly sheepskin). The passenger was a young white male (possibly Hispanic) with long blonde hair (possibly light brown) which came down to his shoulders and an overall disheveled appearance.

It was now about 9:40 AM when Patrolman Carpenter exited his patrol car, approaching the 1964 Impala on the driver’s on his side of the car. After reaching the driver, Dad started asking the driver questions and did not appear to be overly concerned as the passenger slipped out of the passenger door. Undeterred by the inherent risk, Dad continued to talk to the driver, as the passenger started walking to the back of the Impala. Even when it placed him in harms way, Dad was inordinately confident in his ability to safely resolve potentially dangerous situations with his persuasive words and composed demeanor.


According to his close friend and fellow CSP patrolman Kenneth Sniff, Patrolman Carpenter was a “very quiet guy, not shy, not aggressive. You had to push him very far before he’d react.”[1]

Patrolman Carpenter had a reputation of remaining calm and focused under pressure, along with the innate ability to deescalate potentially deadly situations simply by the way he talked to people. Though generally reserved, when Dad encountered dangerous circumstances he was inclined to approach the threat head-on, even if it placed him in harms way. This knack of knowing how to talk to people, had allowed Dad to maintain control even when Dad had placed himself at risk. As a result, Dad had managed to make a number of felony arrests without ever removing his service weapon throughout his career. In spite of his normally unpretentious disposition, Dad was quite proud of this particular accomplishment.

The first instance Patrolman Carpenter demonstrated his distinctive aptitude occurred soon after Dad had been cleared to patrol without a training officer. On this particular occasion, an angry driver had stopped on a highway near Broomfield, exited his vehicle, and was threatening to fire a shotgun he was waving around in his hands. The first CSP patrolman on scene had prudently requested backup, and Dad was the first to respond. As Dad arrived on scene, traffic had come to a halt due to the man’s angry erratic behavior. Without touching his service weapon, Dad began talking to the armed man as Dad left the cover of his patrol car and approached the armed man. After talking for a few minutes, Dad told the man “don’t you think you should just give me that gun” and the man handed Dad the shotgun without further incident.

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Unfortunately for Patrolman Carpenter, the passenger of the 1964 Impala was not in the frame of mind to listen to calming words of reason. After reaching the back of the Impala, the passenger walking between the back of the Impala and the front of the patrol car, and continued walking along the driver’s side of the car. When the passenger reached Dad, there was a brief scuffle in which the suspects were able to gain control of Dad’s service weapon, a .357 caliber Colt Python revolver. Yet Dad somehow did not panic and apparently maintained his composure, as he walked back to his patrol car along with his armed kidnapers.

Several witnesses observed these critical moments. Despite the availability of a telephone at the convenience store at the intersection, none of the witnesses contacted the authorities to report what they had just observed. Several of these witnesses would later come forward and admit they simply had not want to get involved.

After reaching CSP Car #181, the armed kidnappers directed Patrolman Carpenter to get in the driver’s seat and the armed kidnapers both entered the back seat of the patrol car from the roadside of the four-door patrol car. Just a few minutes after 9:40 AM, Dad switched off his overhead emergency lights, calmly pulled CSP Car #181 back into traffic, and merged into the westbound traffic heading towards Boulder. Desperate to escape the criminal predicament they now found themselves, the armed kidnapers tried to sort out some kind of plan that would allow them to escape unscathed.


Around 10:00 AM, a Westminster Police Officer noticed the same disabled light blue 1964 Chevrolet Impala coupe pulled over on the shoulder of the on the Boulder Turnpike westbound on-ramp that led from Broadway. The Westminster Police Officer pulled up behind the empty the still idling Impala and noted the keys were still in the ignition. Despite a quick canvas of the area by the police officer, there were no obvious indications of what had just transpired. Moreover, not a single witness contacted the officer to advise him of what they had observed a mere twenty minutes earlier at this very sight.

Subsequent investigation disclosed the 1964 Chevrolet Impala coupe had been stolen earlier that morning from Mariposa Street and W. 14th Avenue near downtown Denver. In addition, there were indications illegal drugs had been involved. This crime fit the pattern of several other car thefts in the area believe to have been conducted by two of three young (17-22) male associates (one black and two Hispanics). Along with having access to firearms, the suspects were reported to use marijuana, acid, and other illegal drugs when committing their crimes. The suspects were reputed to steal vehicles, including carjacking with a firearm, and then driving the stolen cars to Boulder to obtain more illegal drugs.


Quickly deciding to return to their familiar neighborhoods in Denver, after traveling about two miles on the Boulder Turnpike the kidnapers had Patrolman Carpenter take the first exit for N. Pecos Street. After taking the exit, Dad was directed to cross under the Boulder Turnpike and returning to the Boulder Turnpike in the opposite direction. Now headed away from Boulder back to Denver, Dad calmly maneuvered Car#181 through traffic down the Boulder Turnpike. When they reached the Valley Highway, Dad merged into the southbound lanes of I-25 heading into the heart of Denver.

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Patrolman Carpenter remained composed as he followed the directions of his kidnapers hoping he could ride out this perilous scenario until he had an opportunity to escape or was released. Following the directions of two distressed kidnappers, Dad was careful not to endanger any of the other motorists as he negotiated his way through the treacherous interchange of I-25 and Interstate 70 (I-70), known locally as the “mouse trap”. At this interchange, Dad exited the Valley Highway and merged in the eastbound lanes of I-70 heading away from downtown Denver in the direction of Denver’s Stapleton International Airport.

Interstate 70 (I-70) is the primary thoroughfare for traffic traveling east-west through the Denver metro area. Approximately five miles east of the I-25 and I-70 interchange, was Denver’s Stapleton International Airport. Stapleton International Airport was the primary Denver Airport until it was replaced in 1995 by Denver International Airport.

As Patrolman Carpenter navigated through traffic, several witnesses noticed that the passengers in the patrol car were not acting in a manner customary of individuals transported in police cars. Instead of sitting stoically still with their backs straight against the back seat and equal distance from each other, the passengers were hunched down and moving around in the back seat of the patrol car. This behavior stuck out to a number of drivers and their passengers as they witnessed Dad driving the suspects. Yet, since the patrolman did not outwardly appear distressed and driving normally no one felt there was anything nefarious taking place.

Just before 10:00 AM, the CSP Dispatcher received a report of an accident at 58th Avenue and the Valley Highway. As the accident was in the assigned patrol area for Patrolman Carpenter, the CSP Dispatcher made began attempting to contact Car #181. Though Dad would ordinarily respond promptly to dispatch calls when he was in his regularly assigned patrol car (#131), Dad was known to be slow responding when he patrolling in another car. Consequently, it did not raise any concerns that Dad was not responding to the first few calls from the CSP dispatcher.

After a ten second delay from the last call for Car #181 from the CSP Dispatcher at 10:03 AM, Patrolman Carpenter finally responded back that he was at “Havana and I-70”. The CSP Dispatcher was puzzled by this response. Not only was Havana Street and I-70 over eight miles outside Patrolman Carpenter’s assigned patrol area, the CSP rarely patrolled this section of I-70 under an agreement with the Denver Police Department (DPD).

The jurisdiction of the sections of the interstate system that were within the city limits of Denver was primarily the responsibility of the Denver Police Department (DPD). As this section of I-70 (Havana and I-70) was within the Denver City limits, CSP would not actively patrol this section of the interstate and typically would not cross through this section unless it was in response to a specific assignment.

A bit perplexed, the CSP Dispatcher responded “10-4”, and logically asked Patrolman Carpenter, “What have you got there?”. With two armed kidnapers holding a weapon on him, Dad calmly responded “nothing” hoping the dispatcher picked up on the clue he had just conveyed. Although still somewhat unsettled by Car #181’s location, the CSP Dispatcher responded “10-4” and asked if Dad could respond to an accident at 58th and the Valley Highway. Dad somewhat tersely only responded “10-4”, without the customary confirmation that he was responding to the accident. After approximately twenty minutes of inconceivable trepidation, Dad showed the first signs of distress.

As a Division of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, one of the secondary functions of the CSP was to provide road condition reports. Therefore, the CSP Dispatcher would routinely contact patrol cars approximately every two hours or so and request a “10-13” for a road and weather report.

At 10:04 AM, the CSP Dispatcher again attempted to contact Patrolman Carpenter to request a routine weather check, “Car 181, 10-13 North”. After waiting forty-five seconds for a response, the CSP Dispatcher again called “Car 181”. Ten seconds later, Dad oddly did not respond with the weather report and instead tried to alert the dispatcher something was wrong by responding again “I-70 and Havana”. Sensing something was not right, the CSP Dispatcher again asked, “What’s 10-13 North”. This time Dad responded, “Cloudy and Dry”.

The CSP Dispatcher responded, “10-4”, as he started getting that feeling deep in his gut that something was wrong with Car #181. As the CSP Dispatcher subconsciously tried to piece together the information as to what could be wrong, he began to think of what options might be available. In the meantime, realizing Patrolman Carpenter had alerted the authorities of their current location, the kidnappers had Dad take the next exit off of I-70 at Peoria Street. Instead of patrolling the I-70 corridor as Dad had last reported, Car #181 had changed course and was entering one of the worst crime ridden Denver neighborhoods. A neighborhood the two armed kidnapers were all too familiar with (see: End of Watch – Part 2).

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 New International Version (NIV)

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  – 2 Timothy 1:7 New International Version (NIV)

God Bless!

[1] The Denver Post,. “Youth Questioned in Slay Case”. December 28, 1973: Page 3. Print.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Day Shift – December 27, 1973:

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The air was crisp during the predawn hours in the Denver metro area on the Thursday morning of December 27, 1973. With temperatures in the low to mid teens, the area was still covered with the remnants of a series of winter snow storms that had heavily impacted the front range over the past week. The snow covered landscape provided a picturesque “white” Christmas for the Colorado Rocky Mountain Region, reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting. Yet, it was cold to the bone for anyone that had to spend any amount of time outside in this frozen landscape.

On the second official day of winter a major blizzard had hit the Denver metro area, lasting from Sunday through the early Monday morning of Christmas Eve. Officially leaving much of the area with a foot or more of fresh snowfall, powerful 30 to 40 mph winds had driven the snow into deep drifts. In addition to paralyzing the Denver metro area, the December 23-24 blizzard had closed Denver’s Stapleton International Airport overnight stranding thousands of holiday travelers. Some passengers were even forced to spend the night sleeping in their grounded airliners.

“Through the metro area, even snowplows and wreckers were getting stuck Monday Morning” A spokesman for the Colorado Division of Highways reported the agency had “thrown every available man and rig into it’s snow removal effort” with “some of the division’s trucks bogged down in deep drifts – a few reported as high as eight feet”.[1]

Our family had missed the worst of inclement weather by driving some 250 miles west to Grand Junction on the western slope of Colorado the previous Saturday (December 23). It was customary for our family to celebrate at least a portion of nearly every holiday season with my uncle’s family and my grandparents. In fact, the previous Christmas (1972) had been our largest celebration of the holidays. My uncle had accepted a promotion that required him to move with his family to Alaska that following February. To send them off, our entire maternal side of the family had gathered at our home in Lafayette. This would be the last Christmas all of us would spend together.

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This Christmas (1973), my uncle and his family had flown back down from Alaska to spend the holidays with family in Grand Junction and Moab (Utah). With their mother having trouble with her heart, both my mom and her brother especially wanted to be with my grandmother this Christmas. To allow our family to spend more time together in Grand Junction this year, my dad, a patrolman with the Colorado State Patrol (CSP), had traded shifts with another patrolman.


A Christian man with a strong moral compass, CSP Patrolman Thomas Ray Carpenter was known for his integrity and compassion. Dad was quiet about his faith, letting his actions speak louder than his words. Determined to “treat others the same way you want them to treat you”[2], Dad was respectful to everyone and careful never to be judgmental or demeaning of others. As a result, everyone that knew Patrolman Carpenter was well aware of his Christian faith and respected him for it.

After Dad completed his training, Dad was assigned to the small CSP District Office in Lafayette. Lafayette was a small town of around 3,500 residents located just twenty-six miles east of Boulder on Baseline Road and thirty-eight miles north of the center of Denver on US Highway 287. Although the CSP later moved this District Office to nearby Broomfield, our family continued to live in Lafayette where Dad had become established in the community. After I joined the Cub Scouts, Dad volunteered to lead a group of older boys in Webelos, and then Dad agreed to head the local Boy Scout Chapter.

“I was a fatherless youth growing up in Lafayette, Colorado. Officer Tom Carpenter was our Boy Scout Leader and one of the more significant influences on my youth. I remember the cloud over Christmas that year. I attended the funeral and I will never forget the image of all the law enforcement agencies that showed their support. Husband, Father, and Scout Leader Tom Carpenter will always be a positive memory in my thoughts.” – Warren Charter[3]

Though quiet, Dad also had a dry sense of humor with and a penchant for teasing, something my mom never quite fully appreciated. Dad and my maternal uncle thoroughly enjoyed teasing us kids as well as each other. This led to a Christmas tradition in which Dad and my uncle to give each other a gift poking fun of one another. Perhaps enjoying his work too much, on more than one occasion Patrolman Carpenter took great pleasure in seeing the reaction of family and friends when Dad pulled them over while he was out on patrol. One time Dad pulled over my aunt and even order her to “keep her hands where he could seem them” using the PA System of the patrol car so my aunt did not know it was Dad.


As my parents prepared to leave on Wednesday morning, Mom had a sense of foreboding. Mom was distraught with guilt, felling the need to stay longer with her mother instead of going back to Lafayette. Not knowing the next time that we would all be together, shortly before our family pilled into the car to leave my uncle had everyone gather in the front yard of the home of my grandparents to take a few pictures to commemorate the occasion. No one knew at the time these would be the last pictures taken of my dad while he was alive. With the pictures taken, the families said their goodbyes and Dad drove us back over the mountain passes to Lafayette so Dad could report to work early the following morning.

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Following his short five day reprieve from work, the work day started early for Dad on December 27, 1973. Mom was still worried about her mother and had not slept well, so Mom did not get up early to make Dad breakfast that Thursday morning. Instead, Mom simply gave Dad a kiss goodbye, before she rolled over to sleep a little bit longer. With no garage at our home, our car had been parked outside in the frigid cold all night. To get to the CSP Broomfield District Office on time, Dad had to leave our house by 5:30AM to make an extremely cold 15-20 minute commute to work the “day shift” which started at 6:00 AM.

For his last shift, Patrolman Carpenter was not assigned CSP Patrol Car #131 that Dad had generally been driving. Since Dad had switched shifts with another patrolman, Dad was instead assigned CSP Patrol Car #181 to patrol a section of the Interstate 25 corridor stretching north from the Denver city limits (near the intersection with I-70) to the 104th Avenue exit. Known locally as the Valley Highway, Interstate 25 was the primary thoroughfare for traffic traveling north-south through the Denver metro area.

Like most large metropolitan cities, the typical workday commuter traffic on this section of the Valley Highway would have been heavily congested between 6:30 AM until around 9:30 AM. Due to the residual winter driving conditions, traffic likely would be traveling at slower speeds that morning, stretching out the morning commute by as much as 30 minutes to an hour longer.

As usual, Patrolman Carpenter departed the CSP Broomfield District Office on time and was driving to his assigned patrol area by 6:00 AM that cold Thursday morning. His assigned CSP patrol car, Car #181, was a new well marked white CSP Plymouth Fury cruiser with two overhead “bubble” emergency lights permanently mounted through the roof of the car. Fortunately for Dad, Car #181 would likely still have been warm from having been used on the “graveyard shift” by another CSP patrolman.

As he departed from the CSP office, Patrolman Carpenter likely would have driven Car #181 down US Highway 36 approximately ten miles to access his assigned patrol area on the Valley Highway. This section of US Highway 36, locally known as the Boulder Turnpike, was the primary expressway for traffic between Denver (south-east) and Boulder (north-west). Traveling south-east down the Boulder Turnpike, Dad would have then entered the southern end of his patrol area when the Boulder Turnpike merged into the Valley Highway.

Despite the frigid cold temperatures, Patrolman Carpenter diligently went about his work making vehicle stops after reaching his assigned patrol area on the Valley Highway. In the first 70 minute, Dad recorded in his log book making three self-initiated traffic stops. In the first stop, Dad issued the driver an verbal warning for driving a vehicle with defective equipment (possibly a brake light not working). In the next two stops, Dad issued verbal warnings to drivers for minor moving violations (possibly failure to use a turn signal or driving too fast for the conditions). Due to the minor nature of the vehicle stops, Dad did not notify the CSP Dispatcher of the stops.

Even though the patrol car radio was the only “line” of communication available for the CSP patrolmen, CSP procedures did not require patrolmen making self-initiated traffic stops to notify the CSP Dispatcher. Typically, when making a self-initiated stop a CSP patrolman did not notify the dispatch office unless traffic was impeded or some type of additional assistance needed. 

At 7:11 AM, Patrolman Carpenter received his first call-out from the CSP Dispatcher and was assigned to investigate an accident at the Valley Highway and 84th Avenue. Dad notified the dispatcher that he was on the scene of the accident at 7:19 AM. The accident, located in the southbound left-hand lane of the Valley Highway, involved a gold 1969 Pontiac coupe that had failed to stop on the slick pavement before rear-ending a green sedan. Dad conducted his on scene investigation of the accident and ticketed the male driver of the gold Pontiac coupe for careless driving.

After the accident, the gold 1969 Pontiac coupe was towed to Gavito’s Towing on 58th Avenue. To complete his investigation, Patrolman Carpenter followed the towed 1969 Pontiac. Dad reported to the CSP dispatcher at 8:23 AM that he would be out of service for a few minutes at Gravito’s Towing. For the next thirty minutes, Dad careful reviewed the damaged 1969 Pontiac and completed his report without any additional delays to the morning commuter traffic on the Valley Highway.

At 8:56 AM, Patrolman Carpenter reported to the CSP Dispatcher that he had returned to service. To return to his assigned patrol area on the Valley Highway, Dad would have taken 58th Avenue west back to the intersection with the Valley Highway. After, Dad resumed his assigned area of the Valley Highway, Dad made another self-initiated vehicle stop a short time before 9:30 AM.

This time, Patrolman Carpenter stopped a northbound car on the Valley Highway just before the 62nd Avenue bypass. The northbound car was driven by a male driver and had three other occupants. As before, Dad did not notify the CSP Dispatcher of the vehicle stop. Dad informed the driver that one of the tires on the car was very bad and needed to be replaced. As Dad had done previously, Dad did not issue the driver with a citation, choosing to let the driver off with only a verbal warning for driving a defective vehicle.

As a Division of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, one of the primary functions of the CSP was to “promote safety” and “protect human life” by notifying motorist if their vehicle were unsafe to drive. Depending on the severity, It was up to the discretion of the CSP patrolman to issue a warning or cite the motorist if the unsafe issue had not resulted in property damage (an accident).


It had been over five years since Patrolman Carpenter had taken a pay cut to join the CSP. Dad had joined the CSP so he could make a difference in his community by helping others. During his career with the Colorado State Patrol, there were no records of any complaints ever filed against Dad. Yet, there were several letters of commendation. In one such letter, the motorist stated Dad “found a place to turn around and came back to assist us. I have never been treated better”, Patrolman Carpenter “was so helpful and courteous with thoughtful understanding.”[4] At the age of 31, Dad had recently passed his sergeants exam and was entering the prime of his career.

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After warning a driver of the bad tire, Patrolman Carpenter continued patrolling north on his assigned section of the Valley Highway. Sometime around 9:35 AM, Dad exited the Valley Highway to take the Boulder Turnpike north-west to Boulder. Dad was making his way to attend a scheduled 11:00 AM hearing at the Boulder County Courthouse regarding a speeding citation. Approximately ten miles from the CSP Broomfield District Office, Dad passed through the busy intersection with Broadway to enter the westbound on-ramp of the Boulder Turnpike.

With a traffic light to help manage the multiple lanes of traffic, Broadway remains one of the principle north-south arteries transversing the Denver metro area. Running parallel to the westbound on-ramp until it merges with the Boulder Turnpike is the lightly traveled Bronco Road. In 1973, the small homes facing south along this segment of Bronco Road overlooked the westbound on-ramp. Around 9:35 AM, this congested and well populated intersection was one of the last places anyone would expect a patrolman in a marked patrol car to make his last call in the clear view of everyone that happened to be there that morning (see: End of Watch – part 1).

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms…If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ…” – 1 Peter 4:10-11[5]

God Bless!

 

[1] The Denver Post,. “Wind-Driven Snow Chokes City”. December 24, 1973: Page 1. Print.

[2] Luke 6:31, New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[3] The Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP),. 2016. “Patrolman Thomas Ray Carpenter”. https://www.odmp.org/officer/reflections/2820-patrolman-thomas-ray-carpenter.

[4] Wayne C. Keith, Colorado State Patrol Chief, 1973 “Eulogy of Patrolman Thomas Ray Carpenter”.

[4] New International Version (NIV).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

 

 

Introduction to Police Week and Forgiveness:

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Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) did not exist when my dad was murdered in the Line-of-Duty, so it would not be until after I relocated to South Carolina that I would be introduced to the special work done by this extraordinary organization. At this time, I had little interest in C.O.P.S., or what Mom was doing with this charity, as I was too focused on starting my own career in federal law enforcement. Not long after my wife and I had relocated, FBI Special Agent James Horn and my mom approached me about coming to the next Police Week. They hoped I would speak at a “Forgiveness” workshop in which  Mom was helping Special Agent Horn with at the next conference held by C.O.P.S. during the days that surround the National Peace Officers Memorial Day.

This workshop was designed to help survivors understand the need for “Forgiveness” in the grieving process as it allows the survivors to overcome the anger that all too often leads to bitterness, resentment, and at times hatred. Special Agent Horn explained that it would be casual and all I would need to do is tell my story about how I dealt with my dad being killed in the Line-of-Duty, focusing on how I felt about the men that had killed my dad. Incidentally, Special Agent Horn had been assigned to the Denver FBI office at the time Dad was killed thus had assisted in the investigation of his murder. Special Agent Horn was also good friends with the police psychologist that had contacted me about first talking to a surviving family (see: Responding to the Call). Again, it is astounding to me how God weaves events in our lives together so they can lead to a purpose you never would have foreseen.

This was way out of my comfort zone and I really did not want to do it. The only time I had talked about how I had dealt with the death of my dad, there were only four other people in a small office. Moreover, at the time I did not fully grasp the premise of “forgiveness” in this context, nor did I understand how my story had anything to do with “forgiveness”. Special Agent Horn and Mom convinced me that my story worked with what Special Agent Horn was doing with this workshop and that this would again be a great way to give back to everyone that had helped our family over the years. As before, extremely reluctantly I agreed to do it.

A short time before Police Week, Mom let me know that she would not be able to attend the C.O.P.S. conference that year. As a result, she would not be there to assist with the “Forgiveness” workshop I had agreed to speak at. This made me more nervous and anxious than ever. Nevertheless, Mom convinced me that everything would be fine, all I had to do was contact Special Agent Horn when I arrived and he would take care of everything. With apprehension, I nervously agreed to keep my commitment and drove to Washington DC to speak at this “Forgiveness” workshop as planned.

As soon as I arrived at the hotel that was hosting the C.O.P.S. Conference for Police Week I realized how much I had underestimated what I had allowed myself to be talked into. The size and the scope of the event was way beyond anything I had ever experienced. The event consumed the entire hotel, and the hotel was designed for conventions in our Nation’s Capital. There were officers from all parts of the country escorting the survivors along with the families themselves. The sense of emotion was unmistakable, much like a funeral the air was full of stress, despair, pain, loss, fear, and anger. I felt overwhelmed and full of trepidation.

As I arrived at the conference room reserved for the workshop, I felt as though I had been mislead. The room seated at least 40-50 people and there was a film crew setting up their equipment. Special Agent Horn had decided to take this opportunity and have the crew film my story along with the story of FBI Special Agent Judson Ray[1]. Special Agent Ray had recently told his story on the top rated CBS television news show “60 Minutes”. Special Agent Horn hoped to use the video as part of his “Forgiveness” workshops in the future. At this moment I realized I was totally unprepared, out of my league, and wondered what I had allowed myself to be talked into doing.

After Special Agent Horn made his presentation on the need for “forgiveness”, he asked me to speak first. I was dressed casually, had no notes, and had a hard time seeing anyone through the bright lights of the camera crew. As I nervously began telling my story, God seemed to help settle me and allow me to recall details I had long forgotten as I told my story better than I thought possible. I was surprised as I slowly began to sense how so many of the survivors seemed to relate to much of what I had to say. I was even more surprised when Special Agent Horn said it was a powerful story and he would later ask me to come back the next year to help him again.

FBI Special Agent Ray went next. He was a senior agent, a member of the FBI’s Behavior Science Unit made famous by retired FBI Special Agent John Douglas’ book “Mind Hunter”, a Vietnam veteran, former police officer and homicide detective. Wearing a perfect suit, and working with prepared notes, Special Agent Ray was exceptionally well prepared. To my amazement, the first thing Special Agent Ray said was that he felt I had stolen his speech. As he then told his amazing story flawlessly. It was obvious he was an accomplished speaker and had done this numerous times. As he spoke, I felt confirmation that I had no business speaking on the same stage with him.

In 1981, Special Agent Ray had been ambushed at his apartment by three hired contract assassins and shot several times in his back, leaving him for dead with a collapsed lung. As he recovered from his wounds the investigation determined Special Agent’s Ray wife had hired the men that had tried to kill him after Ray had informed her he wanted a divorce and custody of his daughters. Instead of collecting on her husband’s life insurance, his wife was convicted as were the men she had hired to kill him.

As he recovered from his wounds. Special Agent Ray realized that to survive both emotionally and physically, he must find the capacity to forgive his wife and the men she hired to kill him. Special Agent Ray had not been a particularly religious man. Yet, God had disclosed to him that the path to becoming a survivor required forgiveness. Speaking at a Critical Incident Conference at the FBI Academy, Special Agent Ray asserted that the most important thing he could think of to help any survivor was:

“Bring that person to forgiveness. Yes, we may be able to function, but we cannot be whole until we forgive.”[2]

Over the years I worked with Special Agent Horn a few more times during Police Week. As a result, I spent a great deal of time engaged in introspection as I tried to gain a deeper understanding of the context of “forgiveness” as it related to my story. It was important to me to know how I could do a better job conveying this important message to others, and I thought that started with having a better understanding of “forgiveness” in the context of the workshop.

kushner

My story was simple, at least it was simple to me. I never spent any time thinking about the men that killed my dad. In my mind, they simply were not worth my time or thought. In a single moment in time these men had taken Dad from me forever and I was not going to allow them to take anything more from me. If I spent even one moment thinking about them, in my mind, it would allow what they had done to overshadow what my Dad had done. Time and memories were all I had left and I was not going to waste it focusing on what they had done in that single moment. Instead, I wanted to concentrate all my time remembering and honoring Dad. I only had Dad for nine plus years and I wanted to remember as much of what he had taught me during that time as I possibly could.

In this simple way I was able to avoid the trap of anger that naturally comes with focusing on the pain that had been inflicted on me and my family when these cruel men killed my dad. Yet it was more than just that. By holding on to the lessons I had been taught by my dad I was able to control my anger to the point I was simply able to let it go. Remembering how my dad had taught me not to hate and to hold myself to a higher standard, I was able to avoid lowering myself to the level of hate the these men had exercised when they ruthlessly executed my dad. When God focused my thoughts on the dad I had, I was blessed as the wonderful memories I had of Dad would protect me from the dangerous path of anger, bitterness, resentment, and hate.

During my journey to comprehend forgiveness, I came to understand that all of us have been wronged at some point and if we hold onto the pain we felt from that moment we will eventually develop anger, bitterness, and resentment. All of which lead to hatred. The more justified we feel we are, the more difficult it becomes to see what the angry, bitterness, resentment, and hate are doing to us. Regrettably, the greater the hold these negative emotions have on us, the less we see the effect it has on the people we love the most. The more entrenched the anger, resentment, hatred, and bitterness becomes in our lives; the more these negative emotions will diminish our ability to give and accept love. This is why Jesus stressed our need to forgive after he emphasized the most important commandment is to love God and then love our neighbor as we need to forgive to do this wholeheartedly.

mlk-2

I believe this is the significance of Jesus warning his disciples of the dangers of responding to murder with anger (Matthew 5:21-22). There was a important reason that in Mathew 5:25 Jesus advises us to “…settle our differences quickly…[3]. I believe Christ was warning us to forgive quickly so we could avoid the anger we experience when someone murders a loved one from taking root in our lives. I believe this is why Christ led the Apostle Paul to advise the Ephesians to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you[4]. To help us avoid this anger from taking root, I believe Christ lead the Apostle Paul to advise the Philippians in Philippians 4:8[5] that they should focus their minds on the good things God has done in their lives.

In Luke 6:37, Jesus added “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.[6] Jesus wanted us to be able to forgive, so we could be forgiven; because he wanted us to be able to love, to be able to be loved. Although Jesus advised us to “settle our differences quickly” in Mathew 5:25, I believe Jesus understood that not all of us would be able to do this. I believe Jesus emphasized forgiving quickly as he was trying to protect us from allowing anger, hatred, and bitterness, from taking hold within us.

In his book, The Journey: Living by Faith in an Uncertain World, the great evangelist Billy Graham proclaims the transforming power to be found when we forgive:

“…be quick to seek not only God’s forgiveness, but also the forgiveness of those you hurt. If you have been harboring anger or bitterness or jealousy in your heart toward someone – a parent, an ex-spouse, a boss – hand it over to Christ, and ask Him to help you let it go. In addition, discover the transforming power of forgiving others…” [7]

My personal journey has taught me that strong negative emotions can eventually cause us to emotionally shut down and withdraw from everyone that loves us. This can lead us to withdraw into a place so dark that we are in danger of never finding our way out. These emotions are so strong that they can slowly take over our life and prevent us from expressing and receiving love, because love is the polar opposite emotion to anger, bitterness, and hatred. It is through this “transforming power of forgiving others” that we free ourselves to heal and move forward with our lives. By forgiving others we are freeing ourselves from the past allowing us to be a survivor. In contrast, when we hold onto the past and do not forgive we remain ensnared in the psychological trauma of victimization.

God bless!

 

[1] FBI Special Agent Judson Ray was nearly killed when he was shot at his home by two men hired by his wife to kill him.

[2] Bromley, John S. 1991. ‘Suicide – The Survivor’. LEO-Trainer. http://www.leotrainer.com/suicidesurvivor.pdf.

[3] New Living Translation (NLT).

[4] Ephesians 4:31-32, New International Version (NIV).

[5] Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” English Standard Version (ESV)

[6] New International Version (NIV).

[7] The Journey: Living by Faith in an Uncertain World by Billy Graham, Published by W Publishing Group (2005). Pg 181.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

A Man of Quiet Christian Faith:

QuietMan

I was fortunate to have been raised in a home with loving parents that instilled in me my Christian faith. Dad was quiet about his faith, letting his actions speak louder than his words. At the same time Dad was careful never to be judgmental or demeaning of others, he always tried to treat everyone with respect as he took it to heart when Jesus said in Luke 6:31 to “treat others the same way you want them to treat you”[1]. Not only did he teach this, Dad lived it, and as a result everyone that knew him, were well aware of his Christian faith and respected him for it.  

Just as Christ asserted in his Sermon of the Mount, “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”, Dad believed it was your actions that spoke louder than your words. Dad did not just believe this, this was the example by which he lived his life. In an article written after Dad was killed in the Line-of-Duty, Dad was described as “quiet about his religion and very non-condemning, the people on the patrol respected him very much for what he believed.”[2] 

For example, Dad rarely would drink alcohol or use foul language. Yet he had many friends that would drink alcohol and use some harsh language at times. Nonetheless, I never recall Dad speaking negatively in any way of their choices. It was in this way Dad was able to convey to me that I could live by his example without judging others for their choices. Moreover, I came to understand that not drinking alcohol did not make you a good person no more than using harsh language affirmed a person was bad. Despite my occasional failures, I continue to try to live by this example and always remember to look past the facade of a person to see what is in their heart.

Today as I read the words of Saint Peter in 1 Peter 3:15-16, I see Dad lived his life by them and I can now see how prophetic they would be:

“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.”[3]

My granddad was a minister that preached loud and hard. Many people would find the grace of Christ through the preaching of my granddad. Yet, God would use Dad another way that too would have an immense impact on the lives of others. Following his murder, several of his friends and co-workers would let it be known to Mom that they became Christians due to the impact Dad had on their lives, including one of his very best friends and his wife. Even today, I only need to go to one of the memorial pages and I will find a post like the one below reminding me the actions of Dad were heard and are still heard today:

“Tom was instrumental in my Christian conversion and will always be remembered honorably in my memories for his service as a dedicated officer”. -James C. McClung (Former CSP Trooper – May 8, 2010)[4]

Dad was quiet and I was not, which tested Dad at times. As I have previously stated (Blog: Learning to Control My Anger), I never saw Dad lose his temper or outwardly show anger. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for me when I was a young boy as I had quite the temper and was head strong. I remember many times Dad would stop everything to make the point to me if he felt I had done something that was not in line with treating others the way I would want them to treat me. Not only did Dad live it, he made it crystal clear that he expected me to live it too. In this way, to this very day I can see how Dad made certain I understood James 1:19-20:

…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” [5]

Likewise, as I previously stated (Blog: Do not Lower Yourself to their Level), Dad taught me that I should hold myself to a higher standard. Just as the Apostle Paul contended in Romans 12:14-21:

“If someone mistreats you because you are a Christian, don’t curse him; pray that God will bless him…Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible…Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good.”[5]

Dad made it clear both by his example and his words that I was to conduct myself with self-control.  I am reminded of this when I read Titus 2:6-8, where the Apostle Paul advises Titus to teach young men how to conduct themselves:

“Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”[6]

Although I am far from perfect, to this day very few people have seen me outwardly display anger or lose control of my temper. This temperament would serve me well in my career in law enforcement and would not have been possible without the persistent lessons bestowed on me by Dad.

These are but a few of the memories I am blessed to have of Dad and how his faith was imparted onto my life. If it had not been for God guiding me to focus on the good memories I had of Dad, just as he had lead the Apostle Paul to focus on the good things about people as he taught in Philippians 4:8, I could have lost these irreplaceable memories forever. Not only did God preserve for me the dad I was so fortunate to have, in this way I see how God was leading me away from the anger I could otherwise have focused towards the men that had brutally murdered Dad in cold blood. I am so thankful for God’s guidance and comfort during that time in my life, as I walked “through the valley of the shadow of death” I learned to “fear no evil”, for God was “with me” along with his “rod” and his “staff” to comfort me.

It would be the loving memories of Dad and the man that he was that God would use to guide my moral compass each time I would misstep or make a mistakes that would cause me to veer off the course God had intended for me to take. Although I would be blessed with a number of phenomenal mentors throughout my life, these memories of Dad would continue to impact and shape the very core of my character. It is this central core that has had the greatest impact on the person I would become. Notwithstanding my many mistakes and missteps, the best things I have ever accomplished are by virtue of staying true to the core of my character that has been infused with these loving memories of a man I am honored to call my dad.

Furthermore, it is through these loving memories of Christian faith that I will always know what guided my Dad. Subsequently, it is in this faith that God continues to guide me, showing how I can apply these loving memory in my everyday life as I continue to realize and appreciate what it is that I have gained. As it states in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”[8]. Through his example, as well as his words, in less than ten years Dad had passed on to me the character of his Christian faith. It is by this faith, I continue to find guidance over forty years after his life tragically ended. For his Christian faith I was blessed to know, I am eternally thankful as it has made all the difference in my life.

 

[2] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[2] “Tom Carpenter Off Duty”. 1974. Patrol 829 Volume 1, Number 1 (q): Page 3.

[3] New Living Translation (NLT).

[4] New International Version (NIV).

[5] The Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP),. 2016. “Patrolman Thomas Ray Carpenter”. https://www.odmp.org/officer/reflections/2820-patrolman-thomas-ray-carpenter.

[6] The Living Bible (TLB).

[7] English Standard Version (ESV).

[8] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

After the Unthinkable Happens:

Funeral

Social Media, Fox News, and CNN did not exist at the time my dad was abducted and murder.  Nonetheless, with limited knowledge of what had happened and the murderers still at large, this was extremely dramatic news, even for a metropolitan area the size of Denver. I do not remember the first news reporter coming to the house, Mom remembers someone came to our front door within an hour of our notification and they were politely asked to leave. Of course as anyone that has seen these events play out today on television or on the internet knows, this does not end until someone gets a story.

This leads into one of my next memories, the memory of lights, cameras, a reporter, and a microphone all in our house focused on Mom. This was completely foreign to me, I had never known anyone that had ever been on television, let alone having someone in our house to interview Mom for television. I remember wanting to watch to make sure Mom was safe and okay. I knew this was all still very emotional for Mom and I wanted to protect her, even if I had no idea how I could do that. This may be why I have always been wary of the media, circumspect of their motives. Sensing my apprehension, someone quietly ushered me down stairs to our basement.

The television crew must have wanted to film us kids too. Mom was protective of us kids and I knew I did not want anything to do with talking to them on camera. I recall the camera crew came down stairs where I had been taken to play pool to keep me busy and out of the way. The camera crew decided to add a shot of me making a pool shot on Dad’s new pool table. As I was lining up the shot, all I could think about was not scratching the felt. Even at that moment, I could still hear my dad’s voice telling to me to in a stern voice to be careful with the felt.

On my first try I was nervous and I shot the cue ball straight off the pool table. I was so embarrassed as everyone scrambled to find the cue ball and someone set it back up on the pool table so I could have another try. As I recall I made the second shot in the corner pocket, seems like it was the yellow ball, the nine or one ball. Best of all, the cue ball stayed on the pool table and I did not leave a mark on the felt. I was so relieved to be done with my only time on television.

It seems like things were happening so fast. Everything was a blur with more people than I ever had seen coming and going in an endless stream of humanity to and from our home. Mom was busy with so many details so there was a continuous line of faceless people that us three kids were handed off to so Mom could deal with the stressful decisions that had to be made. During this blur of slight memories I only have only a single clear memory of the mortuary as Mom was doing her best to protect us from everything that was going on.

In this memory I was in a car parked in front of a building that seems to have been the mortuary when Mom ask me if I wanted to see dad to say goodbye. Strangely, this is not one of my more vivid memories as it is not something I have never felt was that important to me. Mom felt I was the only one of us kids old enough to make this decision for myself and while I appreciate the fact that she gave me the opportunity, I had no interest in seeing the lifeless body of Dad to add to my memories of him. My life was full of memories of Dad full of life and that was how I wanted to remember him. I wanted to remember him how he had lived his life, not how he had died, so I told Mom I did not want to go into the mortuary to see Dad, that I did not need to say goodbye.

I was interested to see that in 2010, the University of Oxford interviewed eighty bereaved relatives in an effort to determine if it was appropriate to encourage bereaved relatives to view the body after a traumatic death. According to their research, the answer varies from each individual, so my decision that was right for me and yet may not be the best thing for someone else:

“While viewing the body matters for some people, others felt that it might interfere with their memory of the living person…Professionals need to be sensitive to the different needs and preferences of people bereaved by traumatic death and to the social, familial, cultural, and legal context of the death…Some people may see the dead body as an empty shell, but others keep a bond with the social identity of the person, and they may see the body as continuing to harbour a spirit or at least some “lingering energy.” The language used by people who have been bereaved offers a powerful clue to the nature of their sense of relationship with the dead body. We therefore encourage professionals to pay attention to how family members refer to the body: if they talk about it by name or use a personal pronoun this should alert clinicians to the continuing sense of social bond, and it would be advisable to follow suit rather than speak of the “body,” “remains,” or “deceased” and risk offense.”[1]

My next vivid memory must have taken place later that evening. I remember I was in our bathroom taking a warm bath the night before Dad’s “Line-of-Duty” funeral at a church in Longmont. It was an uncomfortable feeling taking a bath with so many people in the house at the same time. As I was cleaning myself I began to notice red blotches were beginning to appear on my stomach, arms, and legs. The more I tried to wash my skin, the more they itched, and more and more were emerging all over of my body.

At this point I was becoming alarmed! I had never seen anything like this before and had no idea what was happening to me. Like any young child that thinks they may be sick, I called out for my mom to come to the bathroom. Mom came in and thought it was the hives due to the stress of everything we were all going through. I recall that she had someone else look at me, which was even more horrifying, and they thought it could be the chicken pox. Since chicken pox are so contagious, Mom decided to take me to see the doctor the next morning before dad’s “Line-of-Duty” funeral, adding even more stress to an already incredibly stressful day for her.

I remember I was feeling miserable and I was trying my best not to cause Mom any more trouble as I knew the funeral was going to be very difficult on her. I do not know if it was the stress of being sick, my concern about Mom, my decision to not cry, the funeral itself, or most likely a combination of all of them. Whatever the reason, I have almost no recollection of anything that took place the day of Dad’s “Line-of-Duty” funeral. Most of what I know about this day is what I have learned from others.

According to Mom, early the next morning she was amazingly able to get me into see the doctor. The doctor took one quick look at me and told her I did not have hives and confirmed her fear that I did indeed had the highly contagious chicken pox. Mom asked the doctor what she was suppose to do, the funeral was that afternoon and there were so many people in town that would be stopping by to offer their condolences. The doctor realized contagious or not, there really were no options so he suggested that Mom cover me up the best she could and not say anything to anyone about my having the chicken pox. Mom felt terrible as she knew this was not right, but with only a few hours she decided to follow the doctors advice pray that God would protect everyone from the potential exposure.

With all this going on, Mom had to make all the final decisions about a funeral she thought she would not have to think about for decades. Like most people their age, my parents had not spent much time at all thinking about the fact their lives would end someday, let alone what they wanted done when that time came. About the only thing Dad had ever said to Mom was that he wanted to be buried in Grand Junction and he did not like the cemetery where his dad was buried. Based on this information, Mom decided to have Dad buried the at the same cemetery in Grand Junction where her brother was buried. This present a problem as Grand Junction was about 250 miles from where Dad had lived and worked for the past five years.

Mom never felt there was any choice, that Dad deserved to have a “Line-of-Duty” funeral service and it needed to be close enough to where Dad lived and worked so the people he lived and worked with could attend. So Mom decided to have two separate services, with the “Line-of-Duty” funeral service in Longmont where we had attended church and the graveside service in Grand Junction. Since our church was too small, arrangements were made to have the “Line-of-Duty” funeral service nearby at Bethel Temple at 1:00 pm on December 31, the last day of the year. The graveside service would be in Grand Junction the following day.

Most “Line-of-Duty” funerals have a slow procession following the service lead by the departments motorcycle escort preceding the hearse and followed next by one or two vehicles with the family. Following the family is generally a multitude of law enforcement vehicles representing various departments, fire trucks, and ambulances, all with lights flashing in silence. Since the graveside service was in Grand Junction, it was decided that the procession would proceed the “Line-of-Duty” funeral in Longmont escorting the hearse to the church. Curiously, no one can recall where the procession started, though it must have taken over ten miles to get to the church. As mom thought back to us three kids riding in a limousine, she recalled she had never seen so many flashing lights and it felt as though the procession lasted an eternity.

I am astonished that not only did I not have the slightest recollection of what must have been such a powerful moment from my past, it had never even occurred to me that there could have even been a procession as part of the “Line-of-Duty” funeral in Longmont. It was not until after I had attended a “Line-of-Duty” funeral in December 2015 while I happened to be working on this section of this book that I even thought to asked Mom if there had been a procession as part of the “Line-of-Duty” funeral for Dad. I was dumbfounded as Mom recounted the details of the long procession that not only took place, it was the only time in my life that I have gone for a ride in a limousine, and it was right out in front of hundreds of flashing lights.

I was just stunned that it had never even occurred to me to ask Mom about this, it simply never crossed my mind. I had always just assumed if there had been a procession, it just had to have taken place in Grand Junction on the way to the graveside service. I had thought this would account for why I would not have any memory of it as I did not attend the graveside service due to my having the chicken pox. Memories are such a curious thing and even more than forty years later I can no more explain how or why I can remember some things so clearly and yet have no recollection of others, particularly as I seem to remember the most painful memories so vividly.

Inexplicably, I do not even remember seeing a procession for a “Line-of-Duty” funeral until about six months before I secured a position in federal law enforcement. It had been almost 15 years since Dad had been murdered when I happened to drive by the procession of law enforcement vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances following a “Line-of-Duty” funeral for a Colorado State Trooper. I still recall how stunned I was as I momentarily experienced a split second of a flash of white emotion which was gone in almost the same instance. Curiously, I have gone on to attend numerous “Line-of-Duty” funerals both as an agent and a representative of C.O.P.S. and I have never again had a sensation anything like this.

The “Line-of-Duty” funeral for Dad in Longmont was attended by over 1,600 family, friends, co-workers, and fellow law enforcement officers. This included Governor John D. Vanderhoof and his wife. As this was far too many for Bethel Temple, there was no doubt a large number of officers that had to remain in formation outside the church on this extremely cold wintry December afternoon where the temperature never made it above sixteen degrees Fahrenheit.

I do not recall arriving at the church or the Honor Guard carefully carrying the casket to the front of the church. It is when the casket has been placed in front of the church adorn by the Colorado State flag that my memory flashes back to life. I can still see the flag as it covered the casket as I found it strangely fascinating and confusing both at the same time. I believe this may have been the first time I had seen a flag covering a casket at a funeral.

I remember struggling to stay still. I did not want to embarrass Mom, yet the urge to itch and scratch were unbearable. Not to mention the fact that I felt just plain miserable. Despite my best efforts, I was losing the battle and I just could not sit still. So as if on cue, one of my oldest cousins quietly guided me up the aisle and out of the sanctuary for the remainder of the service. As the last great honor was paid to Dad, I sat miserably rubbing and scratching missing it all in an empty foyer of the church. I did not get to hear our pastor state Dad was “probably the most moral person I have ever know” or the Chief of the Colorado State Patrol assert dad’s “moral integrity was absolutely impeccable”. This was one of the most frustrating memories I have. To this day I hate that fact that I was not there for my mom, for my sister, or my brother.

Again, my memory goes blank and I do not recall anything that happened after the “Line-of-Duty” funeral service ended. According to paper clipping Mom kept, of the 1,200 law enforcement officers from the 20-25 different agencies that attended dad’s funeral, 500 stood at attention in formation in ten degree weather as the casket was carried from the church to the hearse followed by our family after the service. This is one memory I do wish I could recall. I think back to the day God guided me to attend the “Line-of-Duty” funeral of the Denver Police Officer and believe it is not an accident that God would choose this moment, one that mirrored a blank space in my memory, to reach out to me regarding the meaning of why these men braved the cold to stand the post to honor Dad and our family (see my blog: “Why We Stand Together“).

My next memories are after we had been driven to the old Stapleton International Airport in Denver that same evening of the “Line-of-Duty” funeral. In a strange twist of fate Stapleton International Airport was located not far from where Dad had been murdered. Mom had made arrangements for us to fly from Denver to Grand Junction with the casket so we would not need to worry about traveling in the wintry conditions across the snow covered Colorado mountain passes.

When we arrived at the airport we were taken to a special holding room generally reserved for VIPs as we waited for the plane. They served us soda pop, nuts, and candies. My sister asked if I could have another Pepsi while we waited to get on the plane because I had a sore throat due to having chicken pox. Mom was horrified as no one was suppose to know as she was afraid they would not let me fly. Mercifully, no one said a word and everyone acted as though nothing had been said.

We were loaded on the plane prior to the other passengers. I remember sitting in the bluish-grey seats looking out the window wondering what it would be like to fly. This was all a lot to take in for someone that had never traveled on a commercial plane before. I had only been on a plane once before, when my uncle gave mom and I a ride on his Cessna plane before I had even turn two years old. I guess I was just too young to remember what must have been a very cool experience.

I do not remember much if anything about the rest of the trip to Grand Junction, just as I do not recall arriving at my grandparents house. There was a viewing at the mortuary in Grand Junction for family and friends the following day before the graveside service which was attended by an estimated 600 people. After everything we had been through Mom wisely had decided all of us kids would not attend the graveside service so we stayed at my grandparents house with a family friend which would lead to one of the most extraordinary events of my very young life (see my blog: “God is Always there for Us“).

Despite attended numerous “Line-of-Duty” funerals and memorials over the years nothing has ever trigger any latent memories I have neatly hidden away. Even as I write this blog, the memories that have been hidden away remain hidden without even the slightest recollection. As strange as this seems, it I have never sensed any pain or anguish over this, just curiosity of how and why I could have so many vivid detailed painful memories from this same time of my life and other memories are forever gone as though I was never there when they happened. Oddly, this has been the same since the time it all happened. Yet, I am amazed of the apparent impact the memories that are lost to me would have on shaping the character of the person I was to become.

As I now have the benefit of time that God has patiently given to me to find my way through this process with His help along with so many wonderful people He would send my way, I have come to understand just how fortunate I have been. Not only would I come to understand how God has been with me throughout my journey, I would appreciate that so many others have experienced far worse trials than I could ever imagine. I was blessed to realize early on that although I my had lost Dad, for nearly ten years I was blessed to have more positive loving experiences with Dad than many sons encounter in a lifetime. I may have lost Dad, yet I still had a loving Mom, maternal grandparents, and a maternal side of our family that was in many ways so close that my cousins at times felt like siblings and my aunts and uncle were more like surrogate parents.

Most of all I now realize how fortunate it is to know the pain and grief I so desperately wanted to avoid. Though nothing could have made me understand it at the time, the only way I could experience this amount of anguish, grief, and pain, was to have been loved that much and more by Dad. I was so incredibly fortunate to have a Dad that had both loved my mom and us kids, as in this way both my parents taught us kids how to love them too. This is why it hurt so much to lose Dad, as the amount of pain and grief we feel is close to the converse equivalent to the amount of love that we have received. This is why I have come to see that I was so incredibly fortunate as I know it shows what I had and that is where I maintain my focus.

“We matter, not because of our achievements but because we are loved by God and loved by the people around us. That love may not shield  us from pain, death, and loss, but will make them more bearable, and that will be enough.”[2]

[1] Chapple, A., and S. Ziebland. 2010. “Viewing The Body After Bereavement Due To A Traumatic Death: Qualitative Study In The UK”. BMJ 340 (apr30 2): c2032-c2032. doi:10.1136/bmj.c2032.

[2] Kushner, Harold S. Living A Life That Matters. New York: A.A. Knopf, 2001. Print.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Why We Stand Together:

WhyWeStand

In my story, I detail the raw painful emotions felt by a nine year old boy experiencing  the unthinkable, memories that are forever etched into my memory. For the good and the bad, these memories are chiseled into the character of the man I have become. Despite having a vivid frame by frame memory from that enduring time, I have few memories of Dad’s Line-of-Duty funeral. I find it so remarkable that not only would God create us with the ability to recall certain events in vivid slow motion detail so we could learn all we needed to from it, God would also design us with the capacity for our memory to turn off, when the painful emotions are about to overwhelm us. In Psychology this is known as “Dissociative Amnesia”.

For anyone not familiar with a “Line-of-Duty” funeral, when a law enforcement officer is killed in the Line-of-Duty the family has the option to have a personal service or a public service that is referred to as a “Line-of-Duty” funeral. As with firefighters and other first responders, there are set protocols that are followed much like a military funeral that are steeped in tradition along with personal touches unique to the beliefs and wishes of each individual family. As circumstances of the death of each officer killed in the Line-of-Duty are different, each “Line-of-Duty” funeral is not the same. Although there are always variations of the similar protocols, it is this set of protocols that helps interconnect each service with the next, each officer with the next, each department with the next, each family with the next.

After my dad’s funeral, I would not attend another Line-of-Duty funeral until after I had started my career in law enforcement. I was the only member of my agency to attend this Line-of-Duty funeral of a municipal police department and did not know what to do so I simply fell into formation with the hundreds of officers from departments throughout the country as they stood at attention in front of a historic Catholic cathedral. As I was standing in formation I remember thinking it was so cold and began to wonder why I had forced myself to attend this funeral. As I sensed the return of the strong painful emotions forgotten in my past, the more I realized how I just would rather be anywhere than there.

As I stood there with the other law enforcement officers standing in the solemn quiet, something happened as I focused my thoughts on God and was silently praying to myself. It is as though God at that moment was teaching me why I was there. It was more like a question, why are you here? As I looked around at all the other law enforcement officers standing outside the small Catholic cathedral, I felt that I was asked why they all were there? Was it out of obligation? Was it to honor and show our respect? Yes, it was all of this, yet it was so much more. I realized this is how we show devotion and love, this is how we show respect and honor. It is one thing to say we are devoted, that we love, to say we honor and respect. It is yet another to demonstrate this when it is cold, when it is something we do not like to do as it reminds us of painful emotions from our past.

As I stood there I slowly felt the warmth of a light from inside as I sensed the dignity of all the law enforcement officers that I had the privilege to be standing with in formation that day. It was at this moment I came to understand the reason for standing there in the cold and facing all the painful emotions of the past. I was there, as we all were, to publicly display to the fallen officer’s family, the law enforcement community, and our country, that regardless of what happens, we can still be counted on to show up and stand the post together. Actions speak louder than words, and by standing the post together that day our actions confirmed our respect and honor as we expressed the true devotion and love we had for the hero that we had lost and the family that survived.

In the follow first weeks of May, there will be memorials through out our country to honor the men and women that have died in the Line-of-Duty. During the week of May 15, known as “Police Week”, survivors from around the country will gather in Washington, DC, to publicly honor and recognize the 128 men and women that have died in the Line-of-Duty in 2015. Please take a moment to pray that with the assistance of organizations like Concerns of Police Survivors, this will be a time for healing for these family members, their friends, and members of their departments. God bless!

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.