I knew it was coming. You see, I’m good in an emergency. The reason I’m good in an emergency is because I stuff all my emotions away so I can deal with the crisis at hand. In my line of work, the crisis may be a skinned knee, a broken arm (that happened this summer) or someone got his finger caught in his bike chain (which happened last summer.) Last Sunday was a different kind of crisis. The kind that makes the papers and saddens a whole town. My own life touched just on the periphery edge and reminded me once again of how many caring people we have around us.
Last Sunday, my younger daughter called from her small group and asked if I could pick her up from church right then and told me that there were, “about eight police cars across from the church with their lights on.”
I’m a little complacent about these things because I live in a smallish town and, while I know that crime exists here, we don’t see it much. (I was also married to a police officer for what I always phrase as “way too long.”) I figured it was a car chase or someone had robbed the convenience store across from the church. When I drove to the church, my route was blocked off. I pulled up to the officer from the next town over and explained my situation. “My daughter is in the church across from all the units with their lights on…how can I get her out?” His first response was to tell me to tell her to stay inside, then he suggested I park in the nearby school and come back to him. In the school yard, the life-flight helicopter waited, the crew standing by. A fellow parent in the school parking lot told me an officer had been shot and a house was on fire.
When I returned to the officer I had spoken to, he was able to ascertain that it would be safe for my daughter to walk out to where we were. I instructed her on how to get there staying as far away from the units and any potential action as possible. I watched the black smoke rising from the fire and anxiously watched as she walked toward me. The first thing she said to me when she got to me was, “Mom, you just sounded so calm.” Then we drove away, praying for the officer.
The next day, the news announced that Officer Rob Liebke had died, as had the elderly suspect who had set his own house on fire and then shot Officer Libke. For the first time in 107 years, our town grieved the loss of an officer on duty. I was busy all week, praying for his wife and family and the officers who knew him. I prayed for the family of the elderly man. I prayed for the children who had been in the church and heard the shots. I prayed and kept busy.
But today, in church, we sang a song that my old choir sang a lot. And when we came to the line, “And with your final heartbeat, kiss the world goodbye and go in peace and laugh on glory’s side,” the tears began to roll. For Officer Libke, who will never hold the child his wife carries, for his wife and family, for the officers and the emergency crews who did everything they could, for the officers from different agencies who made a procession of emergency vehicles to escort his body from the hospital to the funeral home, and for the officers who came from other cities to help when the call came out. The tears came, as I knew they would and they were no less sincere for having been stored for a more convenient time.
Rest in peace, Officer Libke. Go in peace and find joy on glory’s side. Your sacrifice will be remembered.