Van Beek: In memoriam
Our connection to people and events shape our daily experience and often move us in ways that are deeply profound, even when there is no seemingly direct contact. Because of this emotional bond, we are moved to recall these historic moments and the impact can inspire our actions. It is especially meaningful when we acknowledge major sacrifices that are made for us by total strangers. We are in awe of the devotion and commitment by others on our behalf.
This month, we experienced the 20th Anniversary of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. Thousands of lives were lost, on what would otherwise have been a bright and beautiful fall day. Most of the nation did not personally know those who died, yet all were affected.
Why? Because we can identify with the fact that those who perished were just like us. They were people going about their daily lives at work, and suddenly, they were all gone. That sense of vulnerability and mortality touches our heart and soul.
When we observe Memorial Day, we honor and mourn the loss of military members who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. Even if we haven’t lost an immediate family member or friend, we are still immensely moved by the loss. Why? Because we see the faces of someone’s sibling, child, or parent, which so easily could have been our own.
For Independence Day, we celebrate the landmark birth of our nation, remembering those who fought against all odds, to give us the freedoms they longed for and that we take for granted. Why? Because we have come to appreciate and even expect those principles in our daily lives.
Thanksgiving, a holiday that is a bit harvest festival, religious holiday, and historic remembrance. We express thanks for the sacrifices made by our forefathers, in battling a lonely and harsh environment, as they sought a new world for future generations. We take time every year to honor their bravery for our future.
Around the country and especially in our nation’s capital, we see memorials to many of our most significant events. We acknowledge our losses in both world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other military conflicts. We also admire memorials to some of our significant heroes, like Martin Luther King, Christopher Columbus, or even Francis Scott Key, in addition to the many Presidential memorials.
Why are these buildings, parks, and statues so important? Because they each represent a part of us that we have come to cherish. We honor and mourn the loss while celebrating the accomplishments of their sacrifice. It becomes very personal.
Even those who are nameless get recognition for their selfless contributions to our great nation. Time at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier can bring tears to your eyes. Heroes whose sacrifice meant so much. While we may not know their names, we are living their legacy.
Those who face danger on our behalf and make the ultimate sacrifice, are honored and remembered with specific symbols and traditions.
In law enforcement, we have The National Law Enforcement Memorial, which was enacted in 1984, to honor those, throughout history, who have perished in the line of duty. Too frequently, those lost were young, idealistic public servants who had futures filled with hopes and dreams … cut short.
Annually, during National Police Week, in a candlelight vigil, the names of those lost that year are added, with over 20,000 people in attendance, many of them, brothers in blue, mourning the loss. The organization also provides a museum that includes a patrol simulator “walk in the shoes” experience and many officer training programs. There is also a Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial, located in Golden. Additionally, Concerns of Police Survivors provides resources to help families rebuild their shattered lives after a loss.
Firefighters have the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial, just outside of Washington D.C., offering a similar ceremony; and the Colorado Fallen Firefighters Foundation also provides tangible support to the families of those killed in the line of duty.
First responders are often the invisible heroes, which includes dispatchers who are the first to encounter calls of trauma. There are also the many doctors and nurses who are entrusted with saving lives in emergency rooms across the nation, sometimes exposing themselves to uncertain life-threatening conditions.
Why do we have these memorials? It helps to make us more resilient and provides support for moving forward. Whether the trauma is the loss of a family member, friend, colleague, or heroic stranger, the stages of grief are the same.
Denial: The avoidance of an inevitable reality.
Anger: An uncontrolled emotional outburst, sometimes directed people unrelated to the incident.
Bargaining: Desperately seeking an escape from the pain by attempting to fix things through an illogical mental negotiation.
Depression: Shock and sadness that comes from the realization that nothing you can do, will undo what has occurred, leaving a sense of emotional paralysis.
Acceptance: Being able to let go of the pain, keep the good memories, and establish a way to move forward.
In memory, it’s important to share our gratitude for the life we lead by honoring the sacrifices that have been made throughout history and continue to this day. Some heroes are easily visible, others work behind the scenes to make our country and community safe and wonderful places to live. Don’t wait until they are gone to express your gratitude.
James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at email@example.com.