Submitted by Art Smith
Dateline Sunday, December 21: This morning I woke up late, had coffee with friends then I went to my office and turned on my computer thinking I would check in to see if anyone was making contact. Before I got on line I noticed a list of preferred web sites that I suppose had been created just for me by some unknown guy or gal somewhere on the planet who had the software or whatever that detects what kind of news I like to read and had awarded me the status of a preferred reader. One of the preferred web sites on the list was the Huffington Post. Having never read the Post but being a fan of MSNBC, particularly Rachel Maddow who quotes the Post a lot, I decided to give it a try. Up came the headline “Two New York Cops Executed!!”
I was stunned and read the entire article at least two or three times and became consumed by a deep and utterly staggering sense of sadness. What in whatever deity’s name could [make] anyone walk up to a cruiser, find two men dressed in common uniform and deliberately shoot each of them in the head. I could not find anything in my thinking about what I was supposed to do with this information. I was screaming inside and decided the least I could do was go to the police station and see if anyone there could help me sort out WT* was happening. As I approached the station starting to cry I hesitated because how on earth was I going to explain why a grown man was sobbing incoherently. Men of any age are not supposed to cry and I was heading into an environment where men and women are always taught to park their emotions out in the parking lot as they head to their duty. What on earth were these folks going to think of me? I decided the least I could do was sit inside for a bit and if anyone spotted me I could say some about how two officers having been executed in New York was affecting me. The problem at that instant was that I didn’t understand how it was affecting me other that I was apt to continue sobbing at any instant. The dispatcher asked what I needed and I simply said I had just heard the news from Brooklyn and was feeling a bit helpless about what to do. Unlike most of the crew at the Station I did not know who this dispatcher was and so I asked who was on duty. He told me a few names including Eric Isnor.
I immediately understood why I was sobbing. Eric and Jeff French, both Bedford Police Officers had both been friends with my two sons Russ & Chris. Russ played one year of high school football as a defenseman with Eric & Jeff and there and probably in other activities the three of them became bonded. Chris was off in private school during high school however he too seemed to have a close relationship with Eric & Jeff. Eric’s Dad and I had gone through grammar, junior high and high school together. Jeff’s uncle Bob French and I had been in community groups together over the years. Jeff’s brother Tim works for the Bedford DPW and he and I had become friends over the years in spite of an extensive age difference. Jeff’s father is a retired Lieutenant for Bedford Police Department. Jeff’s aunt (Bob’s wife) had worked in School Superintendant Office for years, so many connections.
I found myself riding up and down the Great Road trying to find Eric. I certainly embarrassed myself when I saw a cruiser leaving the car wash and followed the cruiser all the way up to Northside where I pulled up behind the car as the officer stepped out. Not recognizing him, I asked where he thought Eric might be and he politely asked,” Eric who?” I said Eric Isnor! The officer then said he didn’t know Eric as he was on the Carlisle Police force and did not know most officers from Bedford. I had never bothered to read the Town name on the cruiser! More than somewhat red faced I explained that Eric and my sons were friends and that the news from Brooklyn was upsetting. The Carlisle officer responded as if he understood and I departed.
I decided to go to Church as it was a Christmas Carol sing along service and I thought I would resolve my upset there. I went but could not stay. My upset about an execution seemed inappropriate to the setting with all those happy faces so I drove to Lexington for a coffee thinking that there not knowing anyone I would piece together all of my thoughts and pain into a coherent course of action. I was sure I needed to do something. That execution could have happened here. I discovered I needed to write. I recently had written a keynote speech for a Veterans Day event at my former college and the focus of that talk was that violence of any kind is an unacceptable method of conflict resolution. I knew this execution was related to those thought, above and beyond the obvious.
Those two New York police officers had family, they had friends who they played sports with, they had parents and relatives that loved them and when they decided to wear the uniform of an armed service, the NYPD, they each stepped into a world where their identity as loving and lovable human beings would be lost to a role we have asked that they play, we have asked that these brave men and women place themselves in the line of fire- bombs, bullets, insults and all manner of dehumanizing behavior and in doing so we often forget about them as sons, partners, husbands, friends, relatives and responsible members of the community of humans.
When I lost those two New York Police Officers it was AS IF I had lost Eric & Jeff and I couldn’t imagine I would ever replace them and the sobbing was about the fact that I could never replace them. I will continue to look for Eric & Jeff up and down The Great Road every day I live as I want them to know how much I love them and how much I respect and am in awe of their decision to serve.