For a few days, I’ve been trying to figure out something appropriate for my first blog post. Ideas would run through my mind, I’d consider them, and then I would dismiss them as not good enough for an inaugural entry. Today, circumstances provided me with something that not only sets the tone for what I want to do here but also gave me much needed personal perspective.
I am generally very optimistic, and I take things in stride. I try to see the “big picture” and not get bogged down in the small stuff. This week, that has been a struggle, as I returned to work after a two-week holiday break during which I allowed my night owl tendencies to rule supreme. Of course, I’m paying for it now as I force myself to go to bed earlier than I’d like so that I can wake up much earlier than I’d like. In the evenings, I’ve been packing our Christmas decorations, allotting about an hour each night after work so that I don’t have to spend the coming weekend doing it. Good idea except that it cuts into my few waking hours at home, and even though I stop around 8 or so to relax in the basement, I get wrapped up with photo editing and web stuff and I find myself saying, “Just a few more minutes,” which pushes my bedtime back, and thus the vicious cycle. And this week, I have been cursed with infernally slow drivers on my return commute, meaning that I’ve gotten home frustrated (but in reality probably not much later than normal; it just felt that way).
This morning was indicative of the week I’ve been having. I snoozed longer than I should have, had a hard time getting my hair to cooperate, realized too late I should have prepped the slow cooker dinner last night and that I had no time to do it this morning (thankfully, my husband volunteered to take care of it), couldn’t find my hat and spent too many minutes looking for it, and barely had time to scarf down a quick breakfast. On the frustration scale, I would have categorized this morning a 10. When I got into my car, I was feeling pretty frayed.
My morning commute is broken into two parts. The first 20 miles are on rural state roads that take me past small towns made up of mostly houses, a bar or VFW, and the occasional funeral home, and through wooded game lands and past a reservoir. As I approach the interstate, I drive through a larger town, by no stretch a city but bigger than the others, and right before I-99, I pass a Sheetz gas station (a staple of Pennsylvania communities, especially those in the Western half of the state since the company is headquartered in Altoona, PA).
As I approached the Sheetz, I saw six state police vehicles entering the parking lot and then fanning out to fuel up. As this was by no means a normal sight, I knew something was going on, and I remembered that a young state trooper had been killed last week in the line of duty. While stopped at the light, I checked my phone and discovered that today the funeral would be held in nearby Altoona, probably about 1o miles from Bellwood, where I was. Clearly, those troopers were heading to the Blair County Convention Center for the funeral. They were going to say farewell to one of their own, even though they may never have met him.
My thoughts turned to Trooper Landon Weaver, who had been on the job little more than a year when he had been shot in the head during what had been, up to that moment, a peaceful encounter with a local man who had violated the terms of a protection-from-abuse order. He was 23 and newly married to his high school sweetheart. He had long wanted to be a police officer and had enlisted with the Pennsylvania State Police on December 14, 2015. And today he would be remembered, eulogized and buried, and these troopers were headed to Altoona to pay their respects to their fallen brother. I was moved to tears.
Once on the interstate, I saw, heading south toward me, many more police vehicles, a mix of state troopers and local police. Near Tyrone, there was a group that were traveling with their emergency lights on as a sign of respect. In all, I probably saw about 25-30 police and emergency vehicles heading to Altoona. This was at 8:00 a.m. The funeral would not start until 11:00 a.m. so I’m certain that later drivers would see even more law enforcement personnel on their way.
In the space of a few moments, my lopsided perspective had been restored. My first world problems of feeling stressed and being rushed and having a long to-do list evaporated when compared to the pain Trooper Weaver’s wife, parents, family, friends, and fellow officers have experienced for the last few days and will continue to endure for a long time. And I wept. I wept for the loss of this brave young man who will never get to experience so many of life’s joys, and for his young wife, a widow in her first year of marriage. I wept as I witnessed the respect of fellow officers on their way to bid farewell to their fallen brother in the symbolic way unique to first responders and the military. I wept because, in that moment driving to work, my tears and my prayers were all I had to offer.
Sometimes, we are able to keep our perspective in check. Sometimes, life and circumstances do it for us. Nothing I’m dealing with this week can compare to what Trooper Weaver’s loved ones are going through. I’m alive. My loved ones are safe and well. I am blessed in so many ways. And today, I am grateful for the perspective to see that.
RIP, Trooper Landon Weaver. Enlisted 12/14/15-End of watch 12/30/16.