A Memory: Bottles & Dinosaurs

One of my earliest memories must be from not too long after Dave was born. He wasn’t a newborn, but probably less than a year old. That would make me around 4 years old. We lived in New Jersey at the time. I remember being in the bedroom on the bed, with Dave laying there, and my mom. She had brought a bottle into the bedroom, I guess in anticipation of feeding him. I’m not sure why, but she had to leave the room for a moment and she told me to wait to feed him till she came back. When she came back, I was, of course, already giving him the bottle.

I have no idea if this is a true memory or if I made this up at some point. No matter, there are a million little and big memories I have of Dave, starting with that one. Around every corner, there is something that reminds me of some part of our growing up together, which is both painful and beautiful to think about. Sometimes I can smile about those thoughts, and sometimes I just sink into sadness at the idea that this chapter of my life, the chapter with Dave, is now written. Because of that it’s that much more important to try to recollect and write up those memories. I will attempt to do to the best of my ability with my future posts.

An obvious childhood memory that comes to mind is that when Dave was little he LOVED dinosaurs – he knew EVERYTHING there was to know about each of them. He read this kids’ magazine about them and learned about what they looked like, what they ate, when they lived, how big they were, where they lived and so forth. You could ask him anything and he could rattle off the facts. They were his absolute favorite animals. He watched “Land Before Time” a million times, getting upset every time the momma-dinosaur dies.

He also collected dinosaur toys. He had standard “regular” dinosaurs, but also a collection of dinosaurs that were miniatures from a museum in London. He and I both got a set during some vacation. We would build structures, the higher the better, out of books for the “baby dinosaurs” and the big dinosaurs were the bad guys. Well, the carnivores were the bad guys – the T-Rex and the velociraptors. The herbivores were usually some kind of allies. Most of the game was just the little guys going about their business, and the bad guys trying to get them. Or, if one had been captured the little guys would band together and save it – always in time before getting eaten! Sometimes the little guys even helped out their bigger friends, though obviously they couldn’t scale the structures, so we’d have to build traps to keep everyone safe.

I loved playing this game with him as much as he loved to play them, but sometimes, my girly side wanted to incorporate some other ideas. So, occasionally, there’d be a dinosaur and my-little-pony cross-over event. I don’t remember those nearly as well.

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

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A Story: Cousin-Love

“I’m one of Dave’s cousins from Switzerland. Fortunately, our grandparents always put great effort into bringing together the entire family from around the globe. However, due to our busy schedules not everyone could always be at events at the same time. But, Dave came to visit our Grandmother for her 85th Birthday with Uncle Helmut and that was the last time I saw him. 

Grandma had organized a big lunch with the entire family and her closest friend. The day before my Grandma’s birthday lunch, my sister and I spend the day with Dave, Uncle Helmut and Grandma. It was the first time I really got to spend some quality time with him for as long as I can remember. Usually, the family gatherings were too big to be spending one-on-one quality time with anyone particular, so I never really got the chance to get to know Dave the way I would’ve liked to.

On that Saturday, we spent a great majority of the time in the car. Though I don’t remember the main reason we were driving around, I remember very clearly that part of our mission was a search for Fireball whiskey. Now, you have to know that we were somewhere in the Swiss suburbs, a village really, and it was Saturday afternoon (all stores are closed here at that time). Obviously, that didn’t really help with our search. While we were on a mission to find said whiskey, Dave was making hilarious jokes about my sister’s driving skills. I remember laughing so hard, I could barely breath. We made plans to visit him and Marta in Texas, and he spoke about the new house and about his plans for when he eventually retires. He retold the story of how he got the legendary tattoo and the reasons of why he moved to Texas. Finally, we found a gas station that sold alcohol. However, we could only find a small variety of Swiss whiskeys. He got a bottle and we made our way home to Grandma’s. We sat on the sofa, poured ourselves a glass and spoke for hours.  

After that day we all promised each other to stay in touch and we did. Though it was only on snapchat, it felt nice having a little insight into Dave’s day. He would send me snaps of funny faces, of him singing to some song and countless snaps of Mickey. After all these years I finally felt like we were bonding and was excited to start arranging a trip to visit him and the rest of the family in the US. 

The day before we got the terrible news, I saw Dave’s post in honor of a young police officer, who died in the line of duty on her first day of work. I remember seeing lots of these posts on Dave’s wall and every time I saw them, I was so glad that he decided to move away from NYC and start a new life in the relative safety of Euless. However, for some reason this post really moved me deeply and I thought about it for the rest of the day. The same night, I woke up in the middle of the night and for some strange reason decided to check my Facebook. It must have been around 3 or 4am and I was so confused. I kept seeing the words “RIP David Hofer” and I couldn’t understand what was going on. I thought Dave posted that about someone else with the same name or that this was some sick joke – I started believing everything but the most obvious reality. I called my sister and when she picked up, I knew what had happened. The moment of realization is indescribable and the pain I felt, for the family and his fiancee, is something that I cannot put into words. 

The following days are still a blur. I couldn’t find the right words for my family in the US, I didn’t know what to say, who to call, what to do. Quite frankly, I’m still having a hard time finding the right words. When I was asked to come to the memorial, I didn’t know if I should or not. Being so far away from the situation puts you in a state of denial and let’s you live in a little bubble, where you can pretend all that didn’t happen. But it did happen and I had to find a way of dealing with it and I knew, I had to be there for my family and myself to find closure on what had happen. I’m so glad that I decided to go. 

In the 48 hours that I was in NYC, I got to know Dave in a way I could’ve never imagined. The stories about him, the energy of the people who were close to him, every second of my stay filled me with so much gratitude and appreciation for my cousin. The stories made me cry in pain and laughter – he was truly one of a kind. I wish I could’ve known Dave better. I still don’t understand how such a beautiful and pure soul had to be taken away from us. 

My heart goes out to Meret, Marta, Sonja, Uncle Helmut, Boris and everyone who got the privilege to have their lives and hearts touched by Dave. 

I am so proud of you, Dave.”

~ Maggie H., Cousin

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A Story: A Smile

“I brought him a cupcake in Times Square on his birthday once. It made him smile.”

~ Marian L., Friend

[NOTE: These pics have nothing to do with the little anecdote, but I think Marian decided to tell me about this little memory because Dave’s smile and laugh were just so much a part of who he was. When I went digging for a pic for this post, I found this sequence from 2010. In the originals, our dad is on the left having some kinds of serious-looking discussion. On the right, Dave is slowly losing it. What I wouldn’t give to know what silly thing we were cracking up about it!]

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: Omas and Opas

“One of my favorite nights was when I took Dave to Shea Stadium for a Mets game.  I grew up loving baseball and Dave agreed to go to a MLB game with me.  However, once the game started I realized that Dave knew nothing about baseball.  He was a good sport about it though, and listened patiently as I attempted to explain the rules of the game.  Eventually we ended up just talking during the entire game and got to know one another very well.  I remember his shock when he found out that this seemingly Puerto Rican girl actually called her grandparents “Oma” and “Opa,” and laughing when he observed that I said it with no accent.  Years later, Dave messaged me how he was sorry that my Opa passed away.  I responded telling him about that night at Shea Stadium and how we realized we both had an “Opa.”  That memory of Dave made me laugh a little while I mourned the loss of my grandfather.”

~ Diana V., NYU classmate

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Discussions with Opa back in the day.

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Selfie with Oma

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: On Openness

I signed up to receive notifications when someone comments on my post “My Brother Was Killed Because He Wore A Uniform” on one of the major law enforcement Facebook pages. I can honestly say that most feedback has been supportive and honors my brother and other police officers. Some feedback is especially meaningful. Then, occasionally, something like this appears:

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I know this is a person who doesn’t actually care about these issues in a deep way. I doubt they even read my post. For whatever reasons, they have made up their mind that all cops are power-hungry and racist [yes, those words have been used in response to my article] and decided that, for those reasons, the lives of people in Blue don’t matter. I will spare you some of the worst comments I’ve seen, but I think you can imagine what they might be.

I don’t care who you are or what your background is. Life ALWAYS matters. It’s painful to know that people are so blinded by their narrow views and hate, that they simply dismiss this fundamental mandate. Life matters. My brother’s life mattered. Even this hateful person’s life matters.

But, ultimately, these are not the people one can expect to reach with a message of betterment. I truly believe that people with these hateful views are a very tiny minority of our society.

What is a lot more common, however, is that many other people have narrowed their worldview so significantly, that they are only grabbing bits and pieces of information to form their perspective on what the police means. They are only grasping at the stories and details that support their already established views. They are only talking to other people who believe the same things that they do. And, unfortunately, this happens on all sides of the discussion: the community can have detrimental ways of thinking about law enforcement, and law enforcement can have detrimental ways of thinking about the communities they serve.

This is where the change needs to happen.

We need to challenge ourselves to look beyond what we think we know to integrate information and events that, maybe, are contrary to our beliefs.

We need to challenge ourselves to see the nuances of controversial issues, and in fact, to seek out information that represents the other side of the discussion.

We need to challenge ourselves to engage meaningfully and respectfully with the people who believe the opposite of what we do.

Ultimately, we need to be open to changing our minds.

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.

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A Story: A First Winter Getaway With The Hofers

“Dave and I were a perfectly odd couple. I was short, overweight, and obsessed with football, and he was tall, lanky, and obsessed with building computers. I was outgoing, he was introverted. I started to grow facial hair very early on, while Dave was lucky if he could get 3 hairs on his chin.

Sharing mutual interests proved impossible. I retained 0% of the information he shared about computers and gaming, and playing sports was a reach for David. I remember one year even trying to teach him how to play football. At 6’4 and 190 lbs (still in high school) he would be a great safety, I thought! Little did I know he had the coordination of a newborn giraffe learning how to walk. All I can say is that football was clearly never in Dave’s future. It wasn’t hobbies that brought us together, it was support systems and safety nets. He was a very compassionate and trusting friend that provided me a safe space to grow up in. I was social and friendly, so I was a safe space for him to express his social anxieties. Plus, I was affable enough to get beer when I was underage – and I’m still proud of that (FYI – Dave never partook).

For some reason we clicked, and almost as if we had formed a pact, we battled the hardships of middle school and high school together. I had the privilege of growing up with Dave and experiencing a side of him that not many people had the opportunity to do.

My friendship with David really blossomed one particular winter. I forget the exact year but we were still in middle school, and the Hofers were kind enough to invite me to their house up in Maine for a week!

Dave of course was most excited about playing video games, particularly Halo and Dead or Alive 3 in our pajamas, and having tons of eggs, bacon, and steak in front of a fire. Then we would go out to the frozen lake and watch the sunset! It was always the most simple and highly caloric things in life he loved the most.

This was bound to be a good trip – it was my first time with another family for an extended period of time, and this good Jewish boy was about to spend Chanukah with his adopted German family in a town where “a Jew” sounds more like a sneeze than an acquaintance.

I’ll skip over the part of the story where I was stuck on a bus for 9 hours going to bumblef**k Maine next to some obese woman who brought 4 bags of McDonald’s as her carry on luggage, and I sat there as she slurped the salt and grease off her fingers after every bite… Did I mention it was a 9 hour bus ride?

Dave was so pumped! He got a BB gun, which totally freaked me out because, as David reminded me time and time again: I am a p***y. He was very excited about teaching me how to shoot. I was horrible – after a week I still couldn’t hit a can of coke from 10 feet away. Tellingly, he made a joke about my being a terrible partner if we were to be police officers together.

We cut down and decorated a Christmas tree. We watched the sunset on the lake. We rode snowmobiles – and I nearly killed myself. Helmut says that was the day his hair started to turn grey.

We also did as David had planned, and played tons of video games late into the night. He would kick my ass and call me all kinds of vile names – which I never thought I would miss, by the way, and I need not repeat them as it would ruin this wholesome story. It was all he dreamt our friendship would be. My version would’ve included more sports and some alcohol (this was before Dave discovered Fireball) but it was meaningful and beautiful nonetheless.

I had mentioned to Dave’s mom that I would be spending Chanukah with them. Sonja was kind enough to offer her help and make sure I had “that thing you Jews light on Chanukah” – a menorah. Finding a menorah in Maine proved challenging. At long last, we ended up making one out of clay. Sonja was almost more into this activity than I was. She is an artist after all, and I really only consider myself Jew-ish. It was actually Sonja, the atheist, who would yell out the window: “Jesse! Your prayers!” at sunset to remind me to light the candles each night and let me know which day it was. And each night my adopted German family would listen, and Dave would make fun of, my Hebrew prayers. It was a really beautiful and meaningful experience.

At some point during the trip, Helmut thought it would be awesome if he ran in 5 feet of snow around the outside of the house barefoot. And he did, and he looked super cool doing it. So cool, in fact, that Dave thought it would be a great idea to emulate his father… But only once no one was watching, of course. Now it’s 1am, everyone is fast asleep, I just got my ass kicked for the 1200th time in a video game, and it’s negative 20F outside. This was the moment Dave decided that this was the opportune time for him, his sister Meret, and myself to go for a stroll. And so we ran outside in our pajamas, just as barefoot as his father, and did a lap around the house… Only to find out that the door was locked behind us. It was FREEEEEEZZING! You could probably see Canada with binoculars, that’s how far north this is.

After much commotion and many, many snowballs to their parents’ window and not a peep from either of them, Meret decides to take matters into her own hands. Heroically, she scales the side of the house and knocks on the window. Their parents finally wake up and come down stairs. With a grunt, Sonja and Helmut let us back in the house as they muttered “idiots…”

— quick side note, I showed this story to the Hofers beforehand, and Sonja was very quick to point out that I had conveniently left out the part about my body overheating in the cold and throwing up in their sink when I got back inside. So there’s that. See Sonja, I owned it! 🙂

This isn’t exactly about Dave, but the Hofer family as a whole, and who they have been for me. Dave and his family gave me a safe space to grow up when I didn’t feel like my home with my father was that safe at all.

Thank you, Sonja and Helmut, for seeing that I needed the extra support and taking me on as one of your own. Thank you Meret for being an awesome big sister and allowing me to be a part of the relationship you had with your brother. And thank you Dave, for being a genuine and caring friend. We didn’t always get along, but I always knew you cared. Thank you for teaching me that lesson.”

~ Jesse B., Friend

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Dave and Jesse years later.