Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Red Monday

Tomorrow I will get up for work as usual, getting ready with a coffee cup in hand. As on most mornings I already have some idea of what I will wear, as picking out my clothes at 7 am seems far too daunting a task and I like to have them chosen the night before. Tomorrow morning will be a bit easier in r=that regard, though, as I already know I will wear the colour red, not in a festive spirit but in a sombre way as tomorrow an Albertan RCMP officer will be laid to rest.

The news of the shooting of Constable David Wynn on January 17 was received in shock and horror, as we have seen this far too often in recent years. It seems like we have seen so many RCMP officers die in a similar way, and yet how we forget that these brave individuals lay everything on the line every day to protect us.

A friend posted on her Facebook wall close to the time of Wynn's shooting about witnessing a scene in which a woman berated an RCMP officer for blocking her vehicle in at a local parking lot. The officer was on an investigative call and needed to park close to the scene but since no parking spots were available he left his cruiser - momentarily - in front of some parked cars, and the woman took great offense to this "misdeed".

When I read this all I could think was how that officer might well be the first one to respond if she had a different sort of crisis, like an automobile collision or a burglary. I wondered if she understood the things that officer faced on a daily basis, things that made the momentary inconvenience of being unable to move your car pale in comparison. I wonder if she understood how her level of disrespect for the officer, shouting at him in public, was emblematic for the lack of respect others show to our police forces. I wondered if she understood she was berating someone she should be thanking instead.

Close to when this blog began I met a career RCMP officer who served most of his time in the far north. The stories he told me were enough to make me pray my daughter never wanted to be an officer, not because I lacked respect for the profession but because I never wanted her to experience the things he had seen. He was the first officer I ever spoke to in depth about their service, and the stories were enough to keep this writer with her vivid imagination awake at night - so I can only imagine what it did to him as he lived it.

Police officers have a high rate of all the issues we associate with severe stress - depression, suicide, post-traumatic stress, plus a plethora of conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure. It is a career choice that is hard on body and mind, and yet they choose to do it, day after day, year after year, even when they take hits from stories about the misbehaviour of other officers and even as they watch the officers around them gunned down.

Tomorrow in our province the family, friends and colleagues of David Wynn will lay him to rest. From all reports he was a remarkable man and much more than his job alone, but it was his job that led to his death. How many of us would be willing to die for our job? How many of us would lay our lives on the line for our work or for others, knowing we could be killed in the most senseless of ways? David Wynn did, and tomorrow thousands of his fellow officers will attend his funeral to show their respect to their fallen colleague.

And I, in my own small and humble way, will put on something red and think of Constable Wynn, his family and all the other officers who have died in the line of duty and those who continue to serve, and why they deserve our honour and our respect. Normally I adore the colour red, the colour of fierce sunsets, love and my own flaming hair, but tomorrow I will wish I was not wearing red, because tomorrow on Red Monday I will wear it to honour a man who should still be alive instead.

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