Today* we celebrated his life.
This morning I woke up knowing that the majority of my day would be spent fighting back tears and wiping my nose. This afternoon a fallen hero was laid to rest surrounded by friends, family, and strangers hoping to say “thank you.”
Officer Scotty Richardson was shot and killed in the line of duty last week. He was 33. I was not lucky enough to be counted among his friends, but based on the outpouring of heartbreak and support for the family he left behind (a wife and three small children), I can only come to the conclusion that he was a great man.
The memorial service today and the funeral that followed were heartbreaking. They spoke about his childhood, his doting mother and proud father, his Aiken heritage and the pride he felt for his hometown. They raved about his perma-smile (somewhat mischievous but always beaming), his soft-spoken and gentle nature, and his desire to serve the people and keep the peace. They listed his many accomplishments and his numerous qualifications. They spent time reflecting with his family over funny stories, the love he had for his three sons, and how he felt about marrying his soul-mate. People have had nothing but good things to say about Scotty, and it’s clear that Aiken has lost a magnanimous hero.
I’ve had a tightness in my throat and heaviness on my chest since first hearing about his death. It could have been someone I knew. It could have been Mike. You never know when tragedy is going to claim someone you love. Thousands of officers from departments across the state came to pay their respects to Officer Richardson. Aiken was bursting at the seams with law enforcement today. The whole of downtown came to a screeching halt during the processional. Traffic was stopped both ways. Citizens lined the streets and waved American flags as the horse drawn carriage passed them by. And they wept. Everyone wept.
I’m the type of person that gets teary eyed at the sight of the stars and stripes. My eyes water during the National Anthem. I sob during videos of troops coming home from deployment and swell with pride knowing that so many men and women would willingly take such bold risks to protect the country I love, along with the people in it – more than 300 million strangers. Scotty was one of those souls driven to do something bigger than himself. And we are grateful.
I could hear the bagpipes playing before they entered my line of sight. They gave me goosebumps.
|Mike is 4th from the Left!|
So now we mourn this man that many of us did not even know, while a family struggles to find their way in such unfamiliar territory. I think about how this pain will hang over them for many holiday seasons to come. I wonder how they will face it. How will they handle such a profound loss? They will never be able to fill the void his death has created. They will never know why he was taken.
But we are human. Surprisingly resilient creatures. And I know this community that can at times seem distant and disconnected, will band together and embrace Scotty’s family. It takes a village to raise a child, and his sons are in the protective hands of their newfound law enforcement family.
This was Mike’s Facebook status today. I think he said it well, “there are men and women who
wake up every day and put on a uniform. They then take to the streets
with the purpose of keeping you, your property and the community safe.
They knowingly place their lives on the line to accomplish this. Today a
wife will return home without a husband and children will return home
without a father. All who serve in law enforcement give some, some have
given all. May the Lord receive Scotty Richardson and may he keep and
bless the family he left behind. Rest in peace Scotty.”
*I actually wrote this on Tuesday. So when I say today, I mean yesterday.