That's the theme for the past week in the Austin area. The worst of times for sure, for many reasons.
A fine young police officer was slain in the line of duty, and that's the worst of times. For everyone: the public, who won't have Officer Jaime Padron's service anymore; His friends and co-workers on the Austin Police Department and in associated law enforcement agencies; and of course, his family and close friends.
It was the best of some of the worst times, when thousands of regular citizens who never personally knew Officer Jaime Padron turned out for his funeral and lining the route taken by the motorcade. It heartens me when citizens show their appreciation to a fallen hero like Officer Padron. They showed him "respect".
We don't see a lot of respect for law enforcement officers enough these days. I recall one highlight of my policing career came at a church early on a Sunday morning. I was working a free extra job, meaning, as a donation, for no pay, directing traffic from the busy street it was on and stopping traffic for pedestrians who parked nearby and walked a few blocks to the church.
An elderly lady slowly made her way across the four lane boulevard, and as she passed me, she smiled at me. She took a few more steps and stopped and turned around and said "Young man. Thank you so much for being a police officer and protecting us.".
It meant a lot, and still profoundly affects me. I have no idea who this woman was or what her story was but she delivered some mighty uplifting words to me as a very young officer. As I recall, those words really came at a time that I needed to hear them. And they have stayed with me all of these years.
And it saddens me that Officer Padron will not reach the stage of his career and life where he looks back on some younger days exploits and (mis)adventures as I've been able to do. I plan on doing lots more in life, but I've had a rich and diverse life with a ton of highly interesting life circumstances and situations. His family will have his rich memories forever but the loss is so unfair for them.
Unless you've been a police officer, or are a close friend or family member of one, you probably don't understand the level of kinship and brotherhood that is felt not only within a single law enforcement agency, but throughout many agencies. Being a cop is a tough job. I describe the job of police officer, as have others before me and more famous than I, by saying it is long boring periods of tedious paperwork and other adminstrative tasks punctuated by intense, rapidly changing and highly charged situations ranging from armed robberies to murders to sexual assault offenses to burlaries and thefts and just a whole slew of other dangerous situations to be inserting yourself into.
You rely on your partner for your very life. Your fellow officers likewise. Being an officer in the first place is a level of commitment that few are willing to make. Few answer the call, and those few are our protectors. As a Houston Police Department ad used to say in the 1980's..."The Badge Means You Care."
So when an officer falls in the line of duty, killed by another for some insufficient reason, whether that reason is real or imagined, we've lost a part of that thin blue line that guards civilization from anarchy. We've lost the person obviously, and he's undoubted mourned and missed by hundreds if not thousands of his actual acquantances, but he was one of the few, the proud, the brave who are willing to stand up to darkness and evil in many forms and say "NO MORE!"
Here's the link to the story of the best of the worst times, the funeral procession of the late Officer Jaime Padron By that phrasing I mean no disrespect to Officer Padron or his survivors, but mean it only to express the pride that thousands of fellow citizens showed up to show their respect.
It gives me some hope in humanity in this sad time.
Rest in Peace, Officer Jaime Padron.