An eternal remembrance

Published 2:51 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2021

No matter the number of words, the strength of words, the choice of words or the talent of the writer and speaker, it will always fail. There simply is no putting the sacred into words. Words were never meant to capture the sacred. So as a writer, I ask an apology before I even begin. There are limits I will never understand nor be able to push beyond. To speak of our law enforcement is one. Day in and out, these women and men show up for you. And me. We trust them with our families and friends. We trust them to stop the danger which intends to harm us, and we trust them to celebrate alongside of us as we enjoy the richness of community. In Sumter County, we even ask them to escort us as we say final goodbyes to the most precious people in our circle. One day, they will likely escort you to a final resting place. So, it is horrifying when it is us who does the escorting for them. We all have a story of December 7, 2016. But we are not alone. There were citizens in other decades who also saw their beloved law enforcement officers take their resting place. In 1889, Sheriff John Kimmey was laid to rest, in 1907 it was Officer William Morris, in 1913, Americus gathered to say goodbye to Chief William Barrow, in 1923 we saw Lt. Homer Allen Lee leave us, in 1983, Officer Mary Anne Barker received her honors, and in 2016, we were hit harder than we thought possible when two of our officers, Nick Smarr and Jody Smith brought forth our tears.

Crowd gathered to see the new fallen officer memorial

Who has words to capture the absurdity of it? Who has the capacity to put those experiences into words? It is not something to be described, it is only to be experienced. So today, December 7, 2021, we gathered at the Public Safety Building on Lee Street to share another experience as we honored all these officers. With the help of the Junior Service League, a memorial has been built. It is a beautiful feature, complete with professionally done landscaping. There are names on the wall, and a promise to honor the work these people do. There is a promise that we will eternally remember. Such a remembrance requires an everlasting dedication, very similar to what law enforcement has for us.

Honor Guard

Somewhere in the three years of creating and building this memorial someone decided an eternal flame would be featured. Today the families of these officers provided the first spark which will burn for the rest of time. As it burns may we remember, may we see the best of humanity, may we know the great gift of a law enforcement officer, may we forever make a point to show our appreciation. As long as it burns, we have a responsibility to show up in the best way we know how. Some days we will give but a passive thought to our law enforcement, if any at all. But even if we forget, there will never be a day when law enforcement won’t think of you. Their commitment is something they don’t, for one second, take a rest from. There will always be someone thinking of you, and they are in a uniform, wearing a badge, waiting for a call to serve you. So, the flame is not only there to say we will not forget, but also a testimony to the fact they will always remember us.

Memorial

 

Today there were other men, beautifully well-spoken and known for their verbal eloquence who took the lectern, I am sure they would agree no words are big enough. Chief Mark Scott, Rev. Daryl Brown, Mayor Barry Blount, Rev. Rodney Poe, Sheriff Eric Bryant, Rev. Bud Womack, Chief Michael Lewis and Chaplain Daniel Whit all took their well-deserved place to give us a glance of an officer’s duty. They brought beautiful words. Eloquent words. Healing words. They brought their very best and ultimately were dependent upon God himself to tell the meaning of a law enforcement officer. That will never change. Yes indeed, words will never capture the sacred. May we never forget, and may we honor our law enforcement for never failing to remember.