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May 14, 2006

Community

Yesterday I witnessed something wonderful.

funeral.jpg It's hard to find the words to describe it. It began with the largest funeral, in the largest church, I have ever seen.

I seem to have been to a lot of funerals lately. At some point you think the last tear has been wrung out of you, but oddly I'm finding that even the sight of the sympathy card section in the local Hallmark store sends big fat stupid tears welling up in my eyes again. It's happening again now as I type. I have zero patience with myself - it makes me incredibly angry every time it happens. I can't understand why I can't control myself anymore.

Sitting in the car as we waited for the funeral procession to take off I thought, "The hard part is over now - most people are not going to want to drive all the way down to Warrenton." We were already running several hours later than scheduled. We had been on the road since 8 am, we had somewhere else we had to be after the burial, and I was completely exhausted.

And as we pulled out of the parking lot and onto the highway, I couldn't help noticing that the road was lined with cars. And people. Lots of people.

Lines of police officers, EMTs, and firemen standing at attention by their vehicles. That was moving.

But what really astonished me was car after carful of ordinary families who turned out to pay homage to a slain Fairfax County police detective. These people had to have been standing by the side of the road for hours. We were late getting out of the service. Many had flags or homemade signs or stood silently with hands or caps over their hearts.

Some were saluting, at full attention, ramrod straight.

Satellite.jpgFor mile after mile as we drove, literally every overpass we went under was filled with people, and every single one sported a fire truck, often with an American flag hoisted between two cranes. It is a long, long way from Vienna to Warrenton. I have never seen anything like it - as the landscape slowly changed from concrete highways and skyscrapers to rolling green pastures and horse farms, the only constant was the silent embrace of a community that turned out by the thousands to say goodbye to a fallen officer: black, white, brown, professionals, civilians, young and old. It was something I didn't think existed in this jaded world anymore: a sense of community.

A while back, I wrote about the death of honor:

The truth is that many Americans - too many - trust those who keep us safe far less than those who prey on us. After all, we can always ignore the ones who prey on us. They remain in the shadows most of the time, hidden from our sight.

The sheepdogs live among us.

They are different from us, and this makes us profoundly nervous.

What the watchers, the suspicious ones, the media and Hollywood elite who glutinously feast on the benefits of freedom but are mysteriously nowhere to be found when the bill comes due, fail to realize is that the pony-tailed guy next door, the one with the slight beer belly, who doesn't talk much but seems like a regular guy, was once one of the sheepdogs and would be again if his country needed him. What foolish sheep don't realize is that those rules, that hidebound code of conduct that irks them so much is the best guarantee they have that the sheepdogs won't turn suddenly and savage them. That is why they submit to it, gladly, though at times it galls them too. They understand the reason it exists.

It exists to protect things worth defending. And in the end, the defining difference between the sheepdog and the sheep he protects is that the sheepdog is willing to defend those things, with his life if need be, so that they do not pass away.

Something important happened last week. Virginians were reminded of what their protectors are willing to sacrifice to keep them safe, and they turned out to show their gratitude and their love.

Sometimes we sheep get it right, too.

Happy Mothers' Day, Vicky. You could have no finer legacy.

Thanks to Carrie for the Washington Times link and the flag photo.

Posted by Cassandra at May 14, 2006 08:41 AM

Comments

Thank you for a beautiful, sad, and optimistic post. I have included it in my (occasional) round-up of Top 10 posts today.

Posted by: ShrinkWrapped at May 14, 2006 12:22 PM

Thanks.
Thanks for sucking about two hours out of my Sunday morning, reading this entry to your site and a few other posts I enjoyed equally.
Found your site via Watchers of Weasles, but I can't figure out why they'd be watching you.
I'll visit often.
Thanks (for real).

Posted by: Bryan at May 14, 2006 01:25 PM

Oh, the lump in my throat isn't going to go away for awhile.
I wish more sheep would get it right but am so proud to live in Virginia right now.
Wonderful, sad, bittersweet post, Cass.

Rest in Peace, Detective Armel and Capt. Letendre.

Posted by: Carrie at May 14, 2006 01:49 PM

Never let the MSM dissuade us, and allow cynicism to become our God---there are still many more sheepdogs than sheep, and even the sheep are not as silent as first seems.Hero is a word that is mis-applied too often (CIA leakers ain't), yet the Citizens understand, and pay homage.The fact that such a display of affection surprises us is damning in its own right.

God rest ye the sleep of the Just.


Great post Cass.

Posted by: WildBlueYonder at May 14, 2006 04:42 PM

Thank you, Carrie.

Thank all of you. You're a lot smarter than I am most of the time.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 14, 2006 06:58 PM

Wow = Cass

Posted by: Dr. Harden Stuhl at May 14, 2006 10:46 PM

Thank you Cassie.

Posted by: Maggie at May 15, 2006 09:28 AM

Thank you for posting this. It's not just Virginia who mourns, folks all across the country are grieving with the people who Vicky Armel protected and served. It's a loss to us all and we will help you cry.

Posted by: Deb at May 15, 2006 12:12 PM

Thank you for sharing this, Cass. Sheepdogs are found in many places. It is good to know that we are safe because of fine people like Officer Armel and Capt. Letendre.

Posted by: Barb at May 16, 2006 07:29 PM

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