Some names you might remember, whether it was fairly recent, such as detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, or if it was years ago, such as Detective Brian Moore or officers Eddie Byrne and Robert Venable.
The list of officers who died in the line of duty is long and on display at One Police Plaza, starting with Patrolman Thomas Lynch in September of 1849, and now ending with our own Detective Brian Simonsen of the 102nd Precinct.
It would be one thing if we knew it would stop there, that we wouldn’t ever need to add another name to that dreadful list, but we know that isn’t the case.
We know that Brian Simonsen won’t be the last officer killed in the line of duty, just as we knew that Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos wouldn’t be the last. We all know this list will grow year after year, tear after tear.
And that’s what makes those men and women who choose to serve and protect us even more remarkable, because they know that this is part of the job going in. When they take that oath, they know there’s a chance, albeit a small one, that they will go to work one day and never come home.
Think about that for a moment. Think of all the things in our busy lives that we have planned. We have birthday parties to attend, dinner and drinks and sharing laughs with friends, rooms we want to paint and vacations we want to take and families we want to grow old with.
When we go to work we expect that all our plans, from the dreams to the mundane plans of everyday life, will be there waiting for us when we get home.
When you serve and protect the public, you live with the knowledge that all those plans could be laid to waste in just a matter of seconds, just as all of Detective Brian Simonsen’s future plans and dreams perished with him on Atlantic Avenue.
And yet when that shift ended, a new shift began with officers around the city going to work knowing that it could just as easily be them. That it could be their families receiving condolences from the commissioner and the mayor, that it could be their face on the news.
And yet, they all report to work. It’s an everyday act of bravery that most of us can’t even comprehend.
When you’re out on the street and hear a loud noise, perhaps a car backfiring, our instinct is to move away, to get to a position of safety.
When a police officer is on the street and hears that same noise, he or she will move towards it. They will position themselves between the danger and you, whether it’s through born instinct or good training.
Those who serve and protect have been doing so for nearly 175 years, and they will continue to do so forevermore.
And as civilians, we can pray for them and thank them and support them as best as we can, as our community did in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy. People looked for ways to let the officers know that they care.
They brought food to the station house. They dropped flowers at a memorial out front. They held special masses in church and a vigil in front of the 102nd Precinct.
As much as this outpouring of love and support was about Brian, it was also about every other single officer on duty. It’s too late for people to thank Detective Brian Simonsen personally, and so they turn to those left behind to start the next shift.
They turn to those who pick up the pieces and move on and keep serving and protecting us, despite the terrible knowledge that this isn’t the last time we’ll be forced to bury a good cop.
Along with the residents of Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Woodhaven, we offer our condolences and our neverending gratitude to Deputy Inspector Courtney Nilan, the men and women of the 102nd Precinct, and all members of the NYPD.