End of Watch – Part 2

LastWatchCrimeScene

Patrolman Carpenter had taken a great risk in an attempt to alert the CSP Dispatcher that he was in trouble along with giving his current location on I-70 near Havana Street (see: End of Watch – 1). Yet even if the CSP Dispatcher had been alerted by these cryptic messages from Dad, any assistance would have been diverted to the interstate Dad had just exited. As Dad was forced to turn left and cross over I-70 heading north on Peoria Street, Dad was driving away from any hope of help coming from the CSP. Not only was Dad driving away from his last reported position, Dad was leaving the highly traveled traffic arteries that he was familiar with and entering into the crime ridden Denver urban neighborhood of Montebello well known to his armed kidnapers.

Montebello was located north of I-70 and northeast of Denver’s Stapleton International Airport. With multiple violent crimes reported daily, Montebello was one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the Denver metro area. Not only had the CSP agreed not to patrol the highway systems within Denver city limits, the CSP virtually never patrolled residential urban areas.

Crossing over I-70, Patrolman Carpenter drove about a half-a-mile north on Peoria Street through an area of restaurants, motels, and gas stations. At the intersection of Peoria and Albrook Drive, the armed kidnapers directed Dad to turn right and head east on Albrook Drive into an area of Montebello laden with residential apartment complexes. In this residential area, criminal activities were the norm, not the exception, and CSP patrol cars were never seen.

As if by design, only a few hundred yards after turning on east on Albrook Drive Patrolman Carpenter encountered DPD Car #218 headed westbound. Only a few minutes after his last radio transmissions with the CSP dispatcher, for the first time since his ordeal had started Dad was encountering another law enforcement vehicle. Against all odds, Dad had to be hoping that the DPD officers were responding to Dad’s cryptic alert to the CSP Dispatcher. Conversely, the sudden arrival of the DPD patrol car so soon after Dad had disclosed his position had to startle and unnerve the young armed kidnapers.

With these sudden rapid swings of emotions for both Patrolman Carpenter and his young kidnapers in the last few minutes, CSP Car #181 approached DPD Car #218 traveling in the opposite direction. As the patrol cars approached each other, the attention of the DPD officer driving was focused on Dad as he was wondering why a CSP patrol car would be in this neighborhood. Dad calmly smiled and lifted one finger from his hand on the steering wheel in a customary acknowledging wave to the DPD officers as Dad passed within only a few feet of the DPD officer driving, both traveling at relatively slow speeds.

With few exceptions, the only reason for a CSP unit to be in a Denver urban residential neighborhood would be to response to a call for assistance from the DPD.

As DPD Car #218 drove past CSP Car #181, the DPD officer noted the two very young males in the back seat of the CSP patrol car and continued to wonder why a CSP patrolman would be transporting anyone in this very dangerous residential crime area of Montebello. Yet, the relaxed composed expressions from Patrolman Carpenter along with the young age of the back seat occupants alleviated any concerns the DPD officer may have had. Assuming everything was fine, the DPD officer drove on past without a second thought. There simply had not been enough time for the CSP Dispatcher to decipher Dad’s last message and disseminate it to the DPD patrol cars in the area of the “possible need of assistance” for CSP Car 181.


It is difficult to understand why Patrolman Carpenter did not take some type of risk at this point to free himself from his armed kidnapers. Not only was this the first real opportunity since his abduction for Dad to take some type of decisive action that would not place other drivers at risk, Dad had encountered this DPD patrol car within five minutes of taking the great risk of attempting to notify the CSP Dispatcher that he was in trouble. Moreover, Dad had to have known as they entered the residential neighborhood, the kidnapers were getting close to their planned destination.

Perhaps the best explanation can be found within the perceptions of the DPD officer. Dad remained so calm and composed that the DPD officer could not sense Dad was in any danger despite the unheard-of presence of a CSP patrol car in this dangerous urban residential neighborhood of Denver. Dad had a reputation of remaining calm and focused under pressure, a peace and calmness that Christians are promised in the Bible.

As Moses proclaimed in Deuteronomy 31:6 of the Old Testament of the Bible, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them (your enemies), for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”[1] Similarly, in the New Testament of the Bible the Apostle Paul professed in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.” [2]

Since the moment of his abduction, every witness described Patrolman Carpenter as remaining composed. From the moment Dad had lost control of his weapon, Dad had not panicked, had not given into fear, and retained his self-control. Dad exhibited these qualities as he negotiated his assigned patrol car through traffic, during his conversations with the CSP Dispatcher, and during his encounter with the DPD officer. Just as promised in the Bible, Dad displayed the attributes detailed in the Bible of how the presence of God would manifest in us during our greatest adversity.


It was approximately 10:10 AM as DPD Car #218 slowly passed out of sight of CSP Car #181. Patrolman Carpenter now had been abducted for approximately thirty minutes as his best and only hope for assistance drove out of sight near at the intersection of Albrook Drive and Peoria Street. Nonetheless, despite the roller coaster of emotions in the past five minutes or so, Dad remained composed. Dad continued to believe that his fate rested with his faith in God, and not in the hands the two young kidnapers.

Within a minute or two of passing the DPD patrol car, the kidnappers directed Patrolman Carpenter to turn left into The Lakes apartment complex after driving past several pedestrians and other vehicles. A large complex, the Lakes Apartments consisted of three large five-story apartment buildings next to clusters of four smaller three-story apartment buildings. After entering the complex, Dad drove slowly around the outer ring of the snow covered circular series of parking lots as the two kidnapers canvassed the area.

As Patrolman Carpenter slowly pulled around to the back of the complex, the snow was getting as deep as the axel of the patrol car. Dad was struggling to avoid getting the patrol car stuck as they approached the end of the back parking lot. Suddenly four thunderous shots were fired from the back seat of the patrol car, impacting Dad in the back of his head and his lifeless body slumped over the steering wheel. The cold-blooded murderers jumped out the patrol car as Car #181 slowly rolled forward until it stopped in the deep snow at the far end of the parking lot sometime around 10:15 AM.

Running in knee-deep snow, the two young murders quickly made their way around the back of the apartment complex into the south end of the apartments on Crown Boulevard. Despite numerous residents in the area hearing the gunshots along with several others watching two young men run from the scene, not one person would contact the police for the next 20-30 minutes. This allowed the two cold-blooded murders to find refuge in a nearby apartment with family and friends.

After watching the patrol car idling in the parking lot for at least twenty minutes, one of the residents called down to the building manager to check on the patrolman to see if he was sleeping in the idling patrol car. The manager approached Car #181 and almost opened the car door before she noticed blood splattered all over inside the car. Shocked by the realization the patrolman had been shot, she screamed as she ran back to the building and another resident notified the DPD a CSP patrolman had been shot. At about the same time, 10:45 AM, some local kids that ran to the nearby fire station to report the patrolman had been shot.

Immediately after receive the call that a patrolman had been shot, the DPD Dispatcher located and directed the nearest DPD patrol car (DPD Car #218) to respond to the Lakes Apartment complex for the reported shooting of a Patrolman. Realizing they had driven past a CSP patrol car near the reported apartment complex, the DPD officers in Car #218 rapidly responded to the scene. Next, DPD notified the CSP Dispatcher of the report at approximately 10:54 AM.

Stunned, the CSP Dispatcher quickly located the nearest CSP patrol car, Car #62, and dispatched it to check out the report and CSP Car #62 proceeded to Albrook and Peoria to “see if there is a CSP unit there”. The Dispatcher next notified his superiors of the report. Without conformation Car #181 had not responded to the accident on the Valley Highway, the CSP Lieutenant notified all CSP patrol cars:

“DPD just got a report there’s a patrolman been shot at Albrook and Peoria. I have 62 going to check on it. I don’t have any units out close to that area..he’s going to check anyway”.

Everyone at CSP was in a state of disbelief. It had been nearly six years since the last CSP patrolman, Patrolman Larry B. Enloe, had been killed in the line-of-duty. Patrolman Enloe was shot and killed on January 8, 1968, after he stopped a stolen blue station wagon for a traffic violation on Interstate 25 north of Trinidad.

Within a few minutes, CSP Car #62 notified the CSP Dispatch Office that “at Albrook and Peoria, DPD just went by, don’t see anything yet”. The CSP Lieutenant directed Car#62 to “go ahead and check around the area”. At this time, the CSP Dispatch Office started attempting to contact all CSP patrol cars assigned to patrol the Denver metro area.

CSP Patrol Car #181 was identified as the only CSP unit that had been near the reported location. Yet, that had been almost an hour earlier when Patrolman Carpenter had affirmed he would respond to an accident at 58th and the Valley Highway. The pieces were coming together and that sick feeling the CSP Dispatcher had in his that Car #181 had been in trouble was getting worse. Desperately hoping he was somehow wrong, the CSP Dispatcher made several unsuccessful attempts to contact CSP Car #181.

CSP Car #62 notified CSP dispatch that he had not “found anything yet”, adding he had been advised the actual location was about a mile east of Peoria and Albrook. At this time, Car #62 was advised that CSP Car #181 had been in the area about an hour ago and there was “no contact now” with car #181. About the same time, DPD notified the CSP Dispatcher that the DPD and the fire department had arrived on the scene. Within minutes, Car #62 confirmed it was Car #181. By 11:08, Car #62 arrived on the scene to confirm Patrolman Carpenter had been killed and “his gun was missing” (see: Aftermath and Investigation).

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Denver Post December 27, 1973: Nurse examines covered body of Patrolman Carpenter slumped over the steering wheel of his Colorado State Patrol car after 11 AM.


By sharing the harrowing details that culminated in the violent end of my dad’s life, I have divulged how my life was callously shattered and nearly destroyed when I was just a nine-year-old boy. Yet, this ruthless assassination would not be the beginning, end, or even the defining moment of my life. Now that you know how my dad’s life ended, I hope you will read on as I share how my life was instead defined by the loving lessons of faith instilled in me prior to this tragic day.

It would be this faith that would allow me to navigate through adversities and to overcome my mistakes. In shock and overwhelmed by grief, I would make two seemingly innocuous decisions. One would unknowingly set me on a destructive path while the other would save me from a life of bitterness, resentment, and pain. It would be this faith that would intercede at a decisive point in my life and allow me to find my way back from the destructive path to the path I was intended to take, the path that led to a life blessed more that I could ever have imagined!

Psalms-1

God bless!

 

[1] English Standard Version (ESV)

[2] Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

© 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.

Christmas-1972(blog)

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.

 

 

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.

Positive Memories Can Help Us Be Resilient:

Christmas1973

Last Picture – December 26, 1973

 

As the shock of learning of how Dad had been murdered began to subside, God guided me to instinctively make the decision to focus my thoughts on remembering Dad for how he lived and not on how his life had ended. As a result, I have spent little, if any, time thinking about the men that ended his life. I simply felt it was wrong to give into them, to hate like them, to allow them to have a greater effect on my life by allowing what they had done to Dad in a moment in time to overshadow what Dad had done in my lifetime. It was incomprehensible to me to allow them to take away any more time from me, time I could spend focused on Dad.

Likewise, my mom rarely said anything to us kids about the men suspected to have so brutally ended my dad’s life. Instead, Mom would focus on the man Dad had been and the memories we shared. The fact that the suspects were never arrest, and there never was a trial, no doubt helped to allow me to remain solely focused on Dad and what he had meant to me. Some people benefit from the sense of “closure” a trial can give them, and I did want the suspects caught so they would face the justice they deserved. Yet, that did not happen, so I will never know how that could have impacted the way I had chosen to focus my thoughts.

Today as I look back on this choice I made as a young boy, I can see how God was guiding me away from the pitfall of remaining focused on pain, anger, and resentment. Although it is completely natural to feel these emotions after this type of loss, if I had remained focused on these strong negative emotions I could have easily lost sight of the memories of the dad I had and what Dad had taught me. If I had remained focused on the pain, anger, and resentment, of what these men had done I could have become hopelessly lost on the path that leads to hatred and bitterness, the path of a victim.

Instead, God focused my thoughts, the thought of a young boy, on the memories of a loving dad and what my dad had taught me. In Philippians 4:8-9, the Apostle Paul encourages us to focus on what is good, what is right, so we would find peace:

“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 thingspractice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”[1]

Likewise, in 1 Peter 1:6-9 the Apostle Peter, the Rock Jesus had chosen to build the Christian Church on, encourages Christian believers to focus their thoughts on the positives when they experience trials so they can be rewarded for trusting in Christ:

“So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here. These trials are only to test your faith, to see whether or not it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests gold and purifies it – and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold; so if your faith remains strong after being tried in the test tube of fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day of his return. You love him even though you have never seen him; though not seeing him, you trust him; and even now you are happy with the inexpressible joy that comes from heaven itself. And your further reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.” [2]

In his devotional, “An Attitude of Gratitude“,  best selling Christian author and pastor at Oak Hills Church (formerly the Oak Hills Church of Christ in San Antonio, Texas) Max Lucado explains:

“Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover his heart. To discover his heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up.” [3]

Dad had been a survivor and had taught me to be a survivor. Dad had passed on to me his Christian faith, a faith that had led him to focus on what was honorable, what was just, what was good, and what was commendable. Dad taught me to be positive, not to allow my negative emotions to get the best of me and to never lower myself to level of others. Instead of memories dominated by how Dad was murdered, my memories are packed with irreplaceable memories of how Dad lived his life and the invaluable lessons he taught me. God would use these memories of Dad to help me discover an endless supply of inner strength, a resilience I would otherwise never have known I had. I would need this strength to overcome the difficulties, many made worse by my own missteps, I would face along my journey. In this way, God had set me on the path to be a survivor.

When I first shared my story at a Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) workshop, I did not know how to adequately express the significance of focusing on the memories of Dad has made for me during my journey. Each time I would tell my story, I felt I was never truly able to relate the significance of this choice in a manner that would resonate with others as they dealt with their own pain of loss. As a result, I was fascinated when I discovered experts in psychology have conducted research that demonstrates just how this type of positive focus can be a constructive method in coping with any traumatic loss.

One example of this can be found in an article by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology. According to his article, How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times, Dr. Emmons refers to the way I had focused on positive memories of Dad, as focusing on what a person has to be grateful for. Dr. Emmons asserts his research has shown:

“In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times.”

“…being grateful is a choice, a prevailing attitude that endures and is relatively immune to the gains and losses that flow in and out of our lives. When disaster strikes, gratitude provides a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances. Yes, this perspective is hard to achieve—but my research says it is worth the effort.”

“…Why? Well, when times are good, people take prosperity for granted and begin to believe that they are invulnerable. In times of uncertainty, though, people realize how powerless they are to control their own destiny. If you begin to see that everything you have, everything you have counted on, may be taken away, it becomes much harder to take it for granted.

So crisis can make us more grateful—but research says gratitude also helps us cope with crisis. Consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall. There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals…” [4]

Dr. Emmons insight of the power of “gratitude” captures the profound impact my focus on my memories of dad has had on my life. Other researchers have also concluded that the focus on positive memories can have a positive impact on our ability to recover from tragic events in our lives. In an article by Chris Woolston, Resilience: Bouncing Back From Hard Times, psychologists referred to this ability to bounce back from trauma as “resilience”:

Resilient people feel distressed just like anyone else. But even in the darkest times, they manage to buoy their spirits with positive thoughts. “Even the most dire situations aren’t always completely one hundred percent bad,” says resilience researcher Barbara Fredrickson, professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Positivity (Crown, 2009), a book about the power of positive emotions. “The worst situations are often mixed with feelings of relief and an outpouring of compassion.”

…Resilient people, it seems, can find solace even while dealing with overwhelming loss. As reported in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, studies have found that people who coped best with losing a spouse didn’t try to “make sense” of the death or spend a lot of time mulling over regrets or lost opportunities. Instead, while grieving, they found a measure of comfort in happy memories of their lost partner.

Positive emotions are more than just a short-term fix. Experts have found that feelings of love, gratitude, and relief can reverberate for years after a crisis. Why are these emotions so powerful and long-lasting? On a basic level, Fredrickson says, such feelings help keep the mind free and flexible. “You see the bigger picture. There’s a greater openness that allows you to connect with other people.” Now think about the alternative. As Fredrickson explains, people who are grief-stricken, anxious, or depressed tend to draw inward and limit their interactions with the world.[5]

The word “resilience” captures the essence of inner strength my positive memories of Dad have given me. Anytime the journey seems to becoming overwhelming, I can feel these positive loving memories deep inside my core and my resolve is somehow bolstered. As a result, I am able to regain my focus and work to get myself back on the course God has set for me with the knowledge God is with me. Just as the following quotes assert, we can find the “resilience” I found by choosing to be positive and having a grateful attitude to find the inner strength to bounce back from adversity:

“Choosing to be positive and having a grateful attitude is going to determine how you’re going to live your life.” – Joel Osteen

“One thing about championship teams is that they’re resilient. No matter what is thrown at them, no matter how deep the hole, they find a way to bounce back and overcome adversity.” – Nick Saban

“From separation and loss, I have learned a lot. I have become strong and resilient, as is the case of almost every human being exposed to life and to the world. We don’t even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward.” – Isabel Allende

“Resilience isn’t a single skill. It’s a variety of skills and coping mechanisms. To bounce back from bumps in the road as well as failures, you should focus on emphasizing the positive.” – Jean Chatzky

It does not matter what caused your painful loss, the pain is the same if the loss is due to cancer, an accident, drug addiction, suicide, military action, or murder in the Line-of-Duty. The pain felt in the loss is due to the love we received from, felt for, and gave to the one we tragically lost. To understand my journey is to understand the dad I had. It is with this in mind that I share some of the precious memories I have of Dad, as I hope to give you a sense of the man Dad was. It is my hope this will help provide context and some of the perspective of the “gratitude” and “resilience” I have gained from these memories. From this I hope others can find the inner strength from their own loving memories so they too can develop into a survivor and avoid the path of victimization.

 

[1] English Standard Version (ESV).

[2] The Living Bible (TLB)

[3] Lucado, Max. “An Attitude Of Gratitude”. Faithgateway.com. N.p., 2013. Web. 11 June 2016.

[4] Emmons PhD, Robert. 2013. “How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times”. Greater Good. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_can_help_you_through_hard_times.

[5] Woolston, Chris. 2015. “Resilience: Bouncing Back From Hard Times”. Consumer.Healthday.Com. http://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/depression-12/depression-news-176/resilience-bouncing-back-from-hard-times-644999.html.

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

Forgiveness Often Takes Time:

I am so thankful that God blessed me when I was so very young by guiding me not to hate the men that had ruthlessly murdered my dad. It is something I can only refer to as a form of spontaneous “forgiveness” that I would not be able to grasp for many years. Yet, I would still need time before I would come to recognize I had other issues of forgiveness I would need to address. It is this gift of time that allowed me to work through my emotions of grief. Many people may need a great deal more time than others to work through their emotions of grief. Nonetheless, we should not tire of working to the point that we can forgive, as it is the gift of forgiveness that will allow us to genuinely heal and frees us to move on with our life.

Though I am not Catholic and have not had a great deal of exposure to Catholicism, I have been fascinated and impressed by the authenticity I see in Pope Francis. Pope Francis stressed forgiveness “heals the heart and revives love,” adding “we must never tire of asking God’s forgiveness, because only when we are forgiven – when we feel forgiven – we learn to forgive”.[1] As the mercy and grace Jesus demonstrates in His messages, anyone struggling with the issues of forgiveness needs to appreciate this is something that requires time to truly reconcile within us. I believe Pope Francis recognizes just as it may take time to be ready to seek forgiveness, it can also necessitate time to give forgiveness.

Forgivness is something we do for ourselves, to release us from the hold of the negative emotions, allowing us to love again and move forward with our life. To forgive does not mean I wanted the murderers given a pardon anymore than it minimizes the gruesome nature of the crime they had committed. Forgiveness does not mean I wanted to reconcile and have a relationship with the murderers as I do not see that would ever have been appropriate. Yet, I would need time to reconcile my relationship with God, as forgiveness often requires time before trust can be restored. God is always patiently waiting for us when we are ready.

I recently was blessed to have the opportunity to hear Christine Caine[2] speak at a local conference for Christian leaders. She is as dynamic a speaker as I have seen. Yet it was her personal story of how she over came years of sexual abuse that impacted me the most. It is her passion she shows when she speaks that serves as a testimonial of why you should never give up. As for some of us it may take many years to struggle to overcome the pain that has been inflicted on you before your heart is able to forgive:

As hard as it was, Christine had to choose to press through the pain of her past every day in order to have freedom. Because trust had been violated through the abuse, Christine found herself having to live in a way that insured she was always in control. “A vital step in the healing process was admitting I couldn’t control everything,” says Christine. “I had to consciously allow God to start steering my life.” She also had to forgive those who abused her. “It took all the courage I could muster,” says Christine. Nothing in her wanted to forgive her abusers. “I didn’t think they deserved it,” says Christine. But deep down, she knew that unforgiveness would harden her heart and if left unresolved, would jeopardize her future. One night during a prayer counseling session, she fell to her knees sobbing and stayed there for hours. It was there on the floor that something broke in Christine. At that moment, her past no longer had power over her future. The instant she uttered, “I forgive them,” Christine experienced a deep sense of release from the burden she carried for 20 years.[3]

Christine Caine, an incredibly strong willed Christian evangelist and activist, struggled for 20 years to reach the point that she could forgive those who had sexually violated her as a child. If it takes a person with the strength and passion for ministry 20 years to find the capacity to forgive, it becomes easier to understand that others may need this same gift of time, sometimes many years, before they can reach the point that they too can forgive what has hurt them. They need our compassion and support, not our judgement.

Understanding that many will need the patience that this gift of time gives us. It is this need for time that I would ask everyone to remember when considering Matthew 6:15 which states “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.[4] As Jesus emphasized our need for forgiveness, Jesus also demonstrated the need to give anyone that is suffering the compassion and support they need to reach their moment in time when they too are ready to genuinely forgive as this cannot be forced. Forgiveness must be authentic to be credible before it can free us to genuinely heal.

Forgiveness-1

Well meaning Christians have tried to help others recover by expressing to an injured person that they will be condemned if they do not forgive the ones that have defiled them. Not only does this do more harm than good, it does not embody the compassion Jesus teaches. We need to give anyone struggling with this issue our compassion, focusing on helping them heal, not judgment, in the hope they too will find the freedom found in forgiveness. If I had been forced to forgive, I know it would have set me back years if not decades in my personal journey.

Although the world of psychology and Christianity agree on the benefits of forgiveness in trauma, it is important to understand and appreciate the following point made by Anastasia Pollock, LCMHC, in her article “Why I Don’t Use the Word ‘Forgiveness’ in Trauma Therapy“:

“It is equally important for others to refrain from pushing someone into forgiving a perpetrator. Even if the intention is coming from a good place, trying to get someone who has been violated to forgive can feel like being victimized all over again…The person needs to be able to have a voice and express what he or she is feeling and thinking without the fear of judgment.” [5]

As we all do our best to help people that have been so tragically traumatized, we all need to remember in Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus admonished us from judging others:

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”[6]

Mike Singletary, a NFL Hall of Fame football player that played middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears, also had to deal with forgiveness. At the peak of his stardom, his Christian faith came to a crossroads as he felt “empty”. Despite his tremendous success on the field, he found that he felt “empty” and unfulfilled. Although he was raised in a Christian home, the lifestyle of sports superstardom had overshadowed his faith, and he had come to a crossroads. According to Mike Singletary:

“I had everything. And it was right after the Super Bowl that I realized that I was really, really empty. I had done all this stuff. I had made the Pro Bowl. I just signed a great contract. I was the MVP that year. I had just won the Super Bowl. But I was the emptiest and the most frustrated.”

“I just remember, one day, breaking down. I remember saying, ‘Lord, I’m supposed to be Your son, and You don’t talk to me or use me. You don’t do anything. I don’t understand this.’ In my spirit, I heard two things. One was ‘I want to use you, but there are some things that you gotta clean up first.’ The second thing that I had to do was forgive my father.”

Mike Singletary’s father had divorced his mother and walked out on the family when Mike was 12 years old. Yet nearly twenty years would go by before he reached a point that he was able to forgive his father. According to Mike Singletary, when chose to listen to God and forgive his father:

“Day by day, God began to take away some of the bad habits that I had. Had it not been for Jesus Christ in my life, I’m sure I’d be divorced. I’m sure that I’d know my kids from a distance.” Now an ordained minister, author and motivational speaker, he says, “There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that I would take in place of my faith. To me, Christ means everything. I know that He’s got my back no matter what I do. So that gives me all the freedom in the world to be the man that He’s called me to be.”[7]

Although I did not understand it at the time, it would take me several  years before I realized I had to forgive Dad for allowing himself to be killed and God for allowing my dad to be killed. Dad did not need my forgiveness anymore than God did. But I needed to forgive them both so I could finish grieving and move forward in my life. Most of all, I needed to forgive so I could love again and renew my relationship with God. I earnestly believe that this why Jesus emphasized forgiveness and I am thankful I was given the gift of time to find my way back to the road I was meant to follow.

Over the years, this is something God has so impressed on me that I feel obligated to share it whenever I hear someone has questions on forgiveness. Just like everyone else, I have had moments when I was not able to put into practice what God has taught me. Yet, even in these moments of weakness I have found God will lead you to forgiveness if you will open up your heart to Him. Although forgiveness often appears to be impossible, it becomes easier when you realize it is your choice, a choice for you and not for anyone else. You can trust God and choose to move forward with your life, or you can decide to remain stuck in that moment when you were hurt and continue to relive the painful emotions of that time of your life. It is your decision, and God will be waiting to help you when you are ready.

 

[1] “Let God’s Forgiveness Heal Your Heart, Pope Francis Says After Christmas”. Catholic News Agency. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 May 2016.

[2] Christine Caine is an Australian activist, evangelist, and author. Caine and her husband Nick are best known for founding The A21 Campaign in 2008, an organization that combats human trafficking, as well as Equip & Empower Ministries, which seeks to aid the development and growth of Christian churches and church leaders. Caine has written several books, including “A Life Unleashed“, “Run to Win“, “Can I Have (And Do) It All, Please?“, “Undaunted“, and “Core Issues“.

[3] http://www.cbn.com/700club/Guests/Bios/Christine_Caine080205.aspx

[4] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[5] “Why I Don’T Use The Word ‘Forgiveness’ In Trauma Therapy”. GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 May 2016.

[6] New Living Translation (NLT).

[7] Gospellightsociety.com,. 2016. “Mike Singletary Says Having Jesus In His Life Helps Him To Be The Man, Husband, And Father That He Should Be | Gospel Light Society”. http://gospellightsociety.com/glmx/mike-singletary-says-having-jesus-in-his-life-helps-him-to-be-the-man-husband-and-father-that-he-should-be/.

© 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.

Responding to the Call:

TheCall

When you decide on a career in law enforcement, you agree to respond when you are called upon. Regardless of the time of day, despite the potential risks, by accepting the commission of your position, you agree to be more than just a witness. You agree to take action, to get involved, to put forth an effort to make a positive difference. I first learned this from watching my dad as he served as a patrolman in the Colorado State Patrol, and it was re-enforced in me as I too spent well over twenty-five years in federal law enforcement.

Yet, the most difficult call I ever responded to was when I received a call from a police psychologist and I was asked if I would talk to the wife and her children after their dad was killed in the Line-of-Duty. The only experience I had in psychology was a freshman level core class I was required to take in college. Moreover, I had stubbornly resisted all the efforts of my mom, who had a degree in counseling, when she had tried to get me to talk to professionals following the murder of my dad on his last call. To be absolutely honest, I had moved on from that tragedy and the last thing I wanted to do was talk about what had happened fifteen years ago with a psychologist.

Like most men, particularly men in law enforcement, I was extremely uncomfortable discussing my personal experiences dealing with the murder of my dad, especially with a mental health professional. Undaunted, the police psychologist explained that it was important for the them to hear from me, as it would help give the family hope that they too could survive this even though right now it felt like their lives had suddenly and tragically come to an end. Although the idea terrified me, and I honestly did not see how it could help, I reluctantly agreed to talk to the family with the psychologist. I was dumbfounded that God could have a plan to use me to help a family in this way, a way I would never have imagined, a way I unknowingly was uniquely qualified.

As so often happens, responding to this call led to a second call. This time the call was from an FBI Special Agent that was working with Concerns of Police Survivors, providing a workshop on “forgiveness” in conjunction with the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service. As before, I reluctantly agreed to speak at his workshop, although I did not at the time appreciate how my story could help, let alone how it had anything to do with “forgiveness”. As before, this experience would lead to more trips, to more workshops, and the next thing I knew I had been asked to serve on the National Board of Concerns of Police Survivors.

As I look back today, I am astounded at the dramatic impact responding to this call from a police psychologist has had on my life. Through these experiences, I began to see that my perceptions of mental health professionals were misguided, as I was introduced to how mental health professionals helped regular, ordinary people that have experienced extraordinarily traumatic events. I also came to understand the far-reaching impact provided when people were just able to talk to someone who shared a similar experience, letting them know the emotions they were feeling were normal.

These experiences have shown me that although coping with tragedy is a deeply personal journey, one that may never be quite the same for any two people. Even though each experience can cause us to feel so intensely isolated, and feel that no one else could possibly understand what we are going through, there is hope. There is an extraordinary phenomena that takes place when people open up and compassionately share their own personal experiences with each other. When this happens, we somehow find comfort, which allows us to heal, and we begin down the path of becoming a survivor.

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