In 105 degree temperatures she stood out there in front of the Dallas Police Headquarters in full uniform. And in my Red Cross vest I asked if she wanted a bottle of water. It was a simple gesture but one that never left my mind because of her smile. She was so sweet and so appreciative in a moment when I was supposed to be expressing my appreciation to her. And because of her smile she is the only officer I had my picture taken with at the Memorial. I held on to that picture and found comfort in it somehow. Two females serving their community. Both wearing vests. One incredibly brave and the other incredibly grateful. And this July 7th we were reunited. This time I didn't have water for the officer but a thank-you card. And I was able to explain to her who I was, what she meant to me and how I found strength in her smile. I took a piece of the pain from last year and I put a new smile on it.
To end the Birthday with a Purpose I decided it would be special to participate in a "Run for the Blue" 5K race. "Special" was one way to put it. It was 90 degrees at 6:45 in the morning. Not the slightest of a breeze was blowing. Clouds were nowhere to be found. And almost 3,000 people had shown up to run. I wore my special shirt. I presented the check for the Signal 15 Fund to an officer with the organization. I stood at attention for the National Anthem. I bowed my head for the prayer. And when the race began... I cried.
I cried. I cried as I ran past officers standing in front of their squad cars with lights flashing and clapping their hands to cheer us on. Tears streamed down my face as I let it all out: the fear, the heartbreak, the anxiety, the helplessness, the confusion and the anger. I cried as I thought back to July 7th and watched the images of that nightmare Downtown play over and over in my head. I cried at the anger I felt at the protesters and their heartless words for police officers trying to protect them. And I cried at the memory of the man I was going to marry telling me that he "just couldn't do it anymore" so that somehow in the midst of the chaos that night I became single. I ran harder. And I cried more.
Then we came to a bridge.
The race went up and over the bridge and then the course reversed and went back up and over the bridge on the other side. At every turn there were officers with their hand out to slap yours. Some were standing in full uniform in the unbelievable heat. They cheered us on as we ran a race dedicated to supporting them. It was cyclical appreciation at it's finest. At the bottom of the bridge there was an officer that I had seen at the Memorial last year. I remember him bending down to talk to a couple of kids who were upset because they thought there were more "bad guys" out there. And this officer was crouched down and assuring the kids that the policemen were there to keep them safe and he promised that all the bad guys would be kept away from them. I will never forget that conversation or the way in which he comforted those kids who hung onto their Dad.
And there at the bottom of the bridge, on a bicycle, was the officer I saw that evening cheering me on as I ascended what must be one of the only inclines in the city of Dallas. I alternated between jogging and walking and nearly falling over from heat as I made my way across the bridge. And I thought, as I crossed it and turned back around at the bottom to climb it again, of the symbolism on that bridge. I was crossing over the past and leaving the intense pain, the confusion, the disbelief and the heartbreak on the other side. The events of July 7th, 2016: where the lives of five brave men were tragically ended in Dallas and in a house outside of the city my future became a past. I crossed the bridge into the present day. I crossed the bridge from when the officer was comforting a scared child to when he was encouraging me to finish the race.