Tuesday afternoon I was attempting to teach a classroom full of 11th-graders about the legacy of the New Deal — without much success, I fear. Their minds were fried from a morning of testing — high school graduation tests, this time — and, besides, spring break is a week away. When the afternoon bell sounded, sending my hormone-laden teens home or to their after-school activities, I stood in the hallway for a few minutes, grousing with a couple of my fellow educators about what a tough job we have these days.
All we needed was Linda Ronstadt singing “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” over the intercom to make our little pity party complete.
Then I went inside my room to logoff and shut down my computer for the day. Got to save all the energy we can, you know. I decided to take one last look at the news of the day. I am a junkie. What can I say? I logged on to my favorite site and was alarmed to see a breaking news alert from Athens. The news wasn’t good. The details were sketchy, but two Athens-Clarke County police officers had been shot while attempting to apprehend an armed felon. The perpetrator was still on the run and was, naturally, considered armed and dangerous.
My first instinct was to text my kids, two of whom live and go to school in Athens, to make sure they knew about the situation and were OK. I didn’t do that. I knew that Jimmy Williamson would be on top of keeping the UGA students apprised of the situation and I knew that receiving such a text from me would only elicit eye-rolls and no response.
Instead I sent up a quick prayer on behalf of the officers who were down and hurried home. As soon as I was in the house, I logged on to my personal computer and was horrified to learn that one of the policemen, Elmer “Buddy” Christian, had not survived. I was sickened by the news, as were you.
Our law enforcement officers take a lot of grief. We tease them and make fun of them and complain about them — until we need help, of course. Then they are the first people we call. We don’t seem to value their service, we don’t pay them anywhere near what they deserve, and we seldom take time to voice our appreciation for the protection and the service they provide.
Policemen — and women, of course — work around the clock. Crime doesn’t keep bankers’ hours, you know. Nor does crime go on vacation or observe holidays. Our officers — and I call them “our officers” because “we” are the people they are sworn to protect and serve — work 24/7, 365 days a year and each and every day they put their very lives on the line. Now one of our very best has lost his.
Buddy Christian was a great guy. He had been married for 15 years and he and his wife were the proud parents of two young children who are now without a daddy. He was a deacon at the Hull Baptist Church and, according to all accounts, was a friend to everyone he met. He loved his job and he loved helping people. And Tuesday afternoon, while I was whining about what a tough job I have, Buddy Christian was giving his life in an effort to keep this community safe from someone that seems intent on doing as much harm as possible.
The other officer who was shot, Tony Howard, will apparently recover from his wounds. We are all thankful for that. But how will we ever repay Buddy Christian? We can’t of course.
We will be sad and angry for a while. We will express our outrage and we will put up a police shield adorned with black tape on our Facebook profiles for a week or so. We might even make a contribution to the trust fund that has been set up for his widow and children at the Athens First Bank and Trust. Hopefully we will see his killer brought to swift and certain justice. But what else will we do? What else can we do?
For starters, I think, we can be a little more mindful of the job our law enforcement folks are charged with on a daily basis. We can show them the respect and appreciation they deserve and we can try our best to remember the dangerous job they are required to do. We can make their thankless job a little less thankless. That’s not too much to ask, is it? When you encounter a cop doing his job, think of Buddy Christian, and act accordingly.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.