A Thought: The Euless Police Department Awards Banquet

Last week, my family and I traveled to Texas to spend time with Dave’s love, friends and colleagues at the Euless PD Awards Banquet. It’s always unexpected to me how much it helps my soul to be around those who loved and respected Dave most. People who have that link to Dave offer a comforting place from which to experience the range of emotions we go through everyday as we somehow try to reach a “new normal” without him.

The awards banquet was tough but also beautiful. We even met and heard about the actions of people who we didn’t even know had been involved in the tragic events following Dave’s loss. It seems to me that hundreds of people provided their assistance — besides the obvious, officers, EMT, hospital staff, nurses, doctors and more, there were so many businesses, organizations, and city administrators who made sure everything ran smoothly, or who donated their services. Our family had no clue, for the most part.

So, just to really make sure we say it again: THANK YOU.

And, thank you, most of all to everyone who loved and continues to love Dave.

IMG_8103.JPG

On Your Birthday

Today, you would have been 30, baby bro. Today, I should have been able to call you and sing you an atrocious rendition of “happy birthday.” I should have been able to tell you that you’re officially old, and you should have been able to tell me that I’m older still. I should have been able to tease you about having to look out for those hangovers that would all of the sudden start, probably even with that night’s celebration. 

I should have been able to welcome you into one of the best years of your life: a year where you and your love would have had your beautiful wedding day with all your “best buddies” (since you could never restrict yourself to only one best man); a year filled with Mickey’s shenanigans in your newly renovated first home; a year where you FaceTime me from your fire-pit, a glass of whiskey and stogie in hand, just to show me how amazing your pool looked and to tell me that life is good; a year of constant requests to come visit again, or you know, to just move to Texas already; a year of texts to show me the newest smoker experiment and, probably, tell me there’s Fireball in the marinade; a year of super-impressive dubsmashes and wildly inappropriate, yet surprisingly artistic, snapchats; a year of random much-too-generous gifts for the people you loved; a year of ridiculous German accents and impressions; a year of gym selfies showing off your “godlike physique” and updating on the circumference of your biceps; a year of spreading only the biggest laughs and the deepest care. 

We should have been able to tell you to have an amazing day celebrating, envisioning only the most wonderful things for you. Instead, we’re left with only the memories that have already been written.

You are so, so loved. And, you are so, so missed. The amount of love you have generated in others is beyond comprehension. If we can achieve the same in our lifetime, we will have done well. 

Today, we’ll raise our glasses to you. We’ll cry for you. We’ll laugh for you. And, most of all, we’ll try to live our lives a bit more like you did, ’cause let’s face it: you had this living-thing down. 

A Thought: “Don’t fear us. Don’t hate us.”

The Facebook world is extremely emotionally draining to me right now. I have friends on all sides of the political spectrum and the anger, misunderstandings and generalizations are so glaring, so confusing, so overwhelming, that most of the time I just feel that this whole problem is hopeless. I’m stuck in the middle, able to see the various sides, but the gulf between the parties seems so vast. I’m confused that people only seem to recognize the pain on one side of the equation: Black pain or Blue pain. In my mind, it’s all just pain. And, instead of yelling at each other from opposite sides of the table, we should acknowledge when someone is hurting. I feel utterly helpless.

This helplessness has caused me to avoid commenting on a lot of controversial issues, not because I’m ignorant to them or because I’ve put them out of my mind, but because my thoughts are confused, my emotional capacity has been drained by the loss of my brother and best friend, and it simply feels like no reasonable dialogue can be had. At least not in my current state, and definitely not on social media.

But, once in a while, I see a message that I think captures something important – a message that seeks to clarify and reconcile differences, a message that emphasizes that we each can do better in our own little world, a message that ultimately desires unity. With his permission, I wanted to post one such messages by one Texas police officer.

Thank you for your words, officer. And thank you for keeping Dave in your heart as you go out in service of our communities.

“This is a little outside the norm here for me. You guys know this is usually an outlet for my sense of humor. But this was heavy on my mind today. In light of recent events, pretty much right at my own front door, I’m sitting here looking for the motivation to go to work, wondering why I do this. Then I’m very aware that 100s of thousand others across this land are going to work as well with the uncertainty of what’s waiting for us when we check in service. My thoughts are: we are peacekeepers; it’s time to work. However recently, we are hated targets.

Two young officers I respect have both reached out to this old man and asked, “what keeps you going?” One answer is “It’s what we chose to do.” The other one, most recently, pretty much answered her own question when she told me “We do it because that’s our job. We strap up because we are warriors.” She pretty much nailed it. That’s what we are for the peaceful.

I think we are the excuse used by the lawless for violence and now have to be, and need to be, the catalyst for change. We aren’t the killers many accuse us of being, but sometimes a life is taken, but NEVER because it’s a desire to do so.

There’s no way to describe what comes over you and takes place inside you when you point a gun at another human being. That’s something and someplace you never want to be. Well, we don’t either.

I think back over the last 30 years, why I chose this profession, or why it chose me. Simply put, catch the bad guys and help everyone else. It turns into a job of dealing with more bad guys than helping it seems like.

I think tonight, I’ll try to pick up where Dave left off. David Hofer, one of our young officers whose life was taken recently, was a good officer and a kind young man. Dave, I think, pretty much set the example or set the bar for kindness to everyone, good or bad. Tonight my goal, other than to go home at the end of the shift, is to see how many positive encounters I can have, to be like Dave!

My beat is largely minority with some that have been identified as a threat to police. I personally don’t see ethnicity. I don’t see color. I see behavior and deal with the behavior. I see what’s needed and what needs or has to be done. I think you’ll find almost all in my profession see that the same way, believe it or not.

Don’t fear us. Don’t hate us. Just know we are there, doing a job most would never want to do. So much hate in this world. Someone I don’t know yet, will want or need my help today, so I guess I’ll get ready to go to work now and see what’s waiting out there.

Pray for the Blue, say a few words of encouragement to the next cop you see.

Pray for peace, love one another!”

To the Families of Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa

Today, I’m tired. I’m tired because as I’m mourning my brother who was assassinated in the line of duty on March 1st in Euless, Texas, I have to think about you. I think about the moment you received a knock on the door from uniformed men and women with somber faces. I think about how you walk up to the door thinking that this isn’t good. But, believing at the same time that it can’t really be bad either, because you love your officer. It just can’t be that bad. And, then it is.

It is, in fact, the worst.

I think about the moment you receive a phone call or a visit from a panicked loved one and you hear the words uttered that: “He was shot. He’s gone.” And all you can think is: “No, it can’t be. It’s not him. It can’t be him. I love him. He can’t be gone. He’s a good person. He can’t be gone.”

But, he is.

But, he can’t be.

But, he is.

He is.

I think about how you will rush to the hospital, or make your way to the funeral home. You will see the rest of your family and those closest to you, and you will sit in silence, confused, because this is all wrong. Then, something odd will happen or someone will say something funny and you smile or laugh, because this is all so unreal. And, you will think how can I possibly laugh right now. My husband is dead. Or, my dad is dead. Or, my brother is dead.

In the next moment, you will look around and wonder why you’re there, in that moment, in that situation. And you’ll remember that:

“He was killed.”

And you’ll think that it can’t be. He was a good person. This only happens to “other people.”

But, it happened. And, you’re really at the funeral home, making decisions about caskets and flowers.

I think about how your family in Blue will take your hand, squeeze your shoulder, bring you a plate of food that you don’t want to touch. They will glance in your direction, feeling helpless that they can’t do anything to ease your pain, except perhaps, get you to drink a cup of water and eat a bite of anything at all. You will feel ill. Your stomach will hurt. Your chest will feel so heavy. You will feel like you can’t breathe.

As you sit there, making decisions on music and viewings, you will think:

“How can a person bear this much pain.”

“How am I still breathing? How am I still walking?”

Some moments you will think: “I wish the world would just open up and take me away.”

I think about how you will go to sleep at night, exhausted, and when you wake up, for just a moment things will be ok, and then the knowledge of what has happened will wash over you and you will experience the deepest, darkest sadness you will ever know. And this will happen morning after morning, at least for a little while.

I’m no expert at grieving, but I’m a few months ahead of where you are. There is nothing that anyone will say or do that will feel right, because right now everything is just wrong. People will try to comfort you, tell you there is a reason for everything, tell you that an angel went home or that something good will come from all this.

Know that they mean well, but they can’t possibly understand what it means to have someone you love torn from you in the most violent way possible.

After Dave was killed I received a letter from a father, who lost his own son too soon. He wrote: “Time does not heal the pain.  The pain you feel at the loss will never diminish but every day you will get stronger in how you deal and cope with that pain.” This was the most helpful thing anyone has said to me.

These words will bring you little comfort in these horrible days ahead, but know that we are thinking of you. We understand. We’re here. You will, somehow, make it.

You have to make it, because your man in blue needs you too.

~ Meret H., sister of David S. Hofer, EOW 3/1/2016

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 9.48.24 AM.png

 

A Tribute: Three Months Gone (and a Slideshow)

Today marks three months since Dave was killed. How surreal. In this time, I can honestly say that I have done nothing but think about him and the circumstances of his death. It makes me feel like I’m a bit in a time-warp, like everything just happened. But then, in a way, that makes sense. His being gone means a complete restructuring of everything I thought I knew about what my life would be like. I may have had many possible versions for my life when I thought about what the future might bring, but fundamentally, he was part of all of those versions. I say this as Dave’s sister, and I know it’s even more acute for Marta. The most heart-breaking thought, to me, is that when I eventually have children, they won’t know Dave. Someone who was so, so, so important to me, will simply be a collection of stories to them.

I thought it fitting to post the slideshow that Lucas Funeral Homes put together for Dave’s viewing. If you have 10 minutes, and are somewhere private (because: tears), watch it.

David was a son, a fiancee, a brother, a grandson, an uncle, a cousin, a best friend to so, so many, and the funniest dang person any of us knew. If love alone could have kept him safe, he would be with us still.

A Story: Taking the Jump

Dave seemed to have a knack for being memorable even through the briefest of interactions. He truly understood people and could bridge gaps like very few people I know. Here is another example.

First and foremost, I want to express how sorry I am for your loss.  Our thoughts and prayers have been, and will always be with your family, Marta, and those closest to Dave.  Though my fiancee and I didn’t know Dave very long, or very well, I still felt compelled to share a memory of him, because it truly is a testament to his generosity, his character, his love of the job and of Texas.  

My fiancee and I, both born and raised in New York, were told by friends about an opportunity to possibly work and live in Texas.  My fiancee loved the whole idea from the get-go, but being the typical Type A personality that I am, I knew that if I was even going to consider this craziness, I would need to do my research and see all of it first-hand before I made a decision.  Enter Dave.  My fiancee was given his number, and they talked back and forth for several days about the possibilities that Texas presented for us.  As the days went on, I was getting a bit skeptical about this mysterious “Dave” character. 

Eventually after many, many conversations, we decided to fly down to Texas for a few days to check out the area and see it all for ourselves.  Dave and Marta, without ever having met me at all, were more than willing to meet us and show us around. For the few days we were there, they worked around their already busy schedules to show us their favorite spots in the area.  Total Wine was one of the first places Dave told us about (because, priorities).  Babe’s Chicken Dinner House gave us a real Texas feel, and the Shops at Legacy made me see that this wasn’t exactly the rural version of Texas I had envisioned.  They showed us restaurants, shops, apartment complexes, you name it, and when they couldn’t physically be with us, they pointed us in the right direction.  Dave even took my fiancee on a ride along so that he could see first hand what the department was like. I was in awe of their generosity, their kindness, and of Texas. But still, I was hesitant about making a move this big.

On our last day, before we made our way to the airport, Dave took my fiancee and I to TruFire, which was yet another delicious choice.  My fiancee left the table for a moment, and without me having to say a word, Dave called me out on my hesitation.  He asked what was holding me back, and wanted to know what my biggest concern was.  I told him that this was a big risk.  I was afraid I’d miss my family too much, and that taking a jump this big would ultimately end up being a big mistake.  I held my breath a bit, because I knew how Dave felt about Texas, and his decision to move here, and considering he had spent the last few days showing us around,  I was anticipating a little irritation in his response.  I got the opposite.  Dave was considerate and honest.  He told me that he understood my concerns, that they were valid, and that ultimately and obviously it was our decision to make, but that he could guarantee if we took the jump, I wouldn’t regret it.  

Fast forward to now, May of 2016.  I’ve been living in Texas for almost a year and some of my favorite places are still ones that Dave and Marta showed me during our first visit. Our journey here has had its ups and downs, its twists and turns, and it certainly did not turn out like we had originally planned, but what more can be expected of life?  Although my fiancee and I are making our way back to New York next month, I couldn’t be happier with our decision to have moved here.  It is an experience that I am truly grateful for and one I will never forget.

As I reflect back on our time here, I can’t help but think back to our first trip to Texas.  Dave’s love for this place and the possibilities it presented inspired me to push outside of my comfort zone and take a leap of faith, something I don’t often do.  Although we didn’t speak much, and didn’t know each other well, I will always be grateful to have met him.  Ultimately, he was right. I took the jump, and I don’t regret it. 

– Dana F.

A Tribute: A Lifetime of Light

This is final part of a longer note I received from Bryan R. For related posts see: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7.

He was an anomaly. He operated out of the norm at times, yet he always had a reason, and I always had a laugh.  My life is better because I knew him; my life is shattered because I knew him.  However, for every moment in which I think back to March 1st, I have a lifetime of light to break the darkness.

~ Bryan R., NYPD

A Tribute: The NYPD Memorial 5K

Yesterday, my parents and I and over 2500 others participated in the NYPD Memorial Run to honor the legacy of of the 882 NYPD officers who have fallen in the line of duty. 882 souls who have given their lives to protect those of the citizens of NYC.

It was a very moving experience. Beginning with an invocation by an NYPD chaplain, that was both poignant and humorous (delivered with a great New York accent!), the singing of the national anthem by a female officer, and the mournful playing of the bagpipes during a moment of silence for our fallen heroes.

Most striking to me was seeing all the personalized race bibs, many with names of the recently fallen, and many more graced with names of officers whose legacy endures even though they have left us long time past. “My brother” is what my bib said. Others wore bibs that marked their own relationship to an officer: my son, my husband, my partner, my father, my cousin, my friend, my hero, … The list goes on. Let us honor those who have left us, but let us also remember those who are left behind, for enduring their unthinkable loss. The officers, the families, the friends and supporters all deserve our deepest gratitude.

I also want to mention that we understand that Dave is not an “official” fallen NYPD officer as he had retired and joined another department. Yet, there were close to 100 people there to honor him. Thank you to each one of you. There are so many people who are making a tremendous effort to make sure his sacrifice is honored in NYC as well. I want to take this opportunity to thank Bryan R. who has been at the forefront of these efforts. Thank you, Bryan, for all you’ve done and all you continue to do for Dave. And, thank you, to everyone who is helping with this in the background. We may not know each of you, but know that we’re grateful.

A Thought: To Our Heroes

This post is long overdue, but know that we have thought of you every single day. These words are dedicated to Dave’s friends and fellow officers who were there with him on March 1st.

You were there. You did everything in your power to save him. You were shot at. Yet, you moved forward in the face of grave danger without consideration of your own safety. You prevented the loss of more lives. You were with him in his last moments. 

Barely a moment to grieve,  you’re already back out there again. In the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, you’re once again patrolling the streets, helping strangers, responding to more “shots fired” calls.

You are heroes. My family knows this.

You are in our hearts, always.

Ramos.Funeral.crop.jpg