A time to mourn

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: … A time to weep, and a time laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” — Ecclesiastes

Our hearts are broken today, torn apart by the news that two Metro Police officers were assassinated while having lunch at a pizza parlor.

The benign setting underscores how quickly ordinary, everyday life can turn into horrific, indescribable tragedy, and how dangerous a job the men and women who volunteer to work as police officers really have.

Officer Alyn Beck. Officer Igor Soldo.

Remember those names. Mourn those names. They’re the names of people who died for you, protecting your community. They died for no other reason than they came to work on a Sunday, pinned on their badges and went out to do a job that too few of us ever appreciate.

Those two names will join the scores of others inscribed on memorials, in Carson City, in Washington, D.C., other officers who have died in line of duty, having volunteered for a job they know all too well could cost them their lives. They accepted that risk, and so did their families.

There will be plenty of time to discuss and debate the motives of this horrible attack on civilization — and make no mistake, that’s precisely what it was. There will be plenty of time to debate why the two people suspected of committing this crime did so, as if any sane person could ever truly understand. It’s reported that one of them shouted that this was the beginning of a revolution, one cut mercifully short when a private citizen armed with a concealed weapon offered resistance, and paid with his life, and other Metro officers closed in. Like all cowards, the suspects took the coward’s way out.

But this was no revolution. It was a horrible, unjustified, senseless crime. It left in its wake two widows, children robbed of their father, brother officers robbed of their partners, and a community robbed of two fine souls who volunteered to protect it.

We complain about police a lot. We debate their use of force in the course of doing their jobs. We complain about their pay and benefits. We complain about their accident-response policy. We tense up a little when we see their patrol cars, hoping our speeding or signal-less lane change went unnoticed. We complain about the taxes that pay for their salaries, and how we should raise those taxes.

But then, something like this happens, something that puts all of that into perspective. We see officers not as greedy public employees, but as regular people doing a job that requires them to see the rest of us at our worst, our angriest, our most desperate. We see them as people who volunteer to intervene in domestic disturbances, to arrest those who would do harm to the innocent. We see why, without irony or sarcasm, we call them Las Vegas finest.

In awful times such as these, how impotent seem our words of gratitude or condolence. Gratitude won’t fill a widow’s grieving heart. It won’t make up for missed games. It won’t help a young boy make a car to race in a Pinewood Derby, or learn to throw a baseball or to swing a golf club. It won’t be there at graduations or weddings. And it won’t ever stand in for the feeling of hearing your dad say he loves you and proud of you. It can’t possibly.

But right now, it’s all we have. It’s all there is. Life has come to a sudden, jarring halt for two families, and for everyone who knew these two men. A hole has been torn in the soul of a city so often accused of being soulless. It’s a wound that will never really heal, even long after these two new names are etched into stone, and the sound of “Taps” dies away in the desert wind.

Our hearts are broken today.