I have always referred to New Hampshire as "the old west of the Northeast. It's a lawless wasteland." I live away now, and it's an affectionate way I describe my home to people where I now live. I start that way because this isn't a discussion about gun control. It's me processing my feelings. I might circle back to this, but I might not.
Gawker posted about it this morning. CNN reported it first. I was standing in line at Starbucks at 7am when I saw NH on the local news affiliate, video courtesy of CNN. I'm glad I hadn't been given my coffees yet, as I would have dropped them straightaway, like in the movies.
I'm from New England, and some of you know where. And if you didn't, you can probably guess where I'm from now.
Chief Michael Maloney was killed in the line of duty the week he was set to retire, in April of 2012. Officer Mike Briggs was killed when responding to a fight via bike in October of 2006. These two hit me differently than the others I remember. I have a close family member who is a police officer, and Officer Briggs was the first murder of a cop in that area since my family member (he doesn't like me to say our relation; he keeps his profession on the DL online. I will therefore call him "S" for no reason. He is a letter.) joined a force up in northern New England.
I remember my mother calling me to tell me about Mike. I didn't know him, as he was a few years older than me, but we had a lot of mutual friends. My mother was a wreck; worrying about S and S was also a bike cop, and omg omg. I talked her down some, but then it turned into worry for S' soul, since he no longer went to church...it was a strange conversation that I never hope to repeat. When Chief Maloney was murdered, I felt myself panicking in the way I think my mother must. It was one of my first true "I'm turning into my mother" moments. I called S' wife and asked how S was, and how my mother was. Turns out, my mother was handling this much better than Officer Briggs' death, because S called her first.
I've not been able to check in with S today. I want to make sure he calls my mother before I do, because I can't handle talking to her in her panic place. I don't have that same panic that I did when Chief Maloney died. I think that part of my panic at the time stemmed from my extreme case of homesickness that coincided with the 100th anniversary of Fenway park?
I love cops. Loooooooove. I grew up down the street from the police station in my small town. Literally. I could see the police station from my bedroom window in the winter. My neighbors were cops. When I was a kid, a cop babysat me and my brother. When I was older, I babysat cops' kids. I dated cops. I dated the police chief's son! (No, it has nothing to do with the uniform. I don't know what it is. At all.) The police in my town had great rapport with the kids. They were so present, so they were never "those assholes who are out to get us." I bought my first car from a cop in my hometown. (Okay, DADDY bought it.) They all knew me by name, because I baked them cookies all the damn time.
I've gone to their funerals. Hearing bagpipes "Going Home" and "The Minstrel Boy" evokes this visceral reaction that I can't explain well. Just hearing parts of either, like in a movie or on TV, I find that's enough to make me puke now.
Before Chief Maloney and Officers McKay, Briggs and Arkell, the last police murder in NH that I can remember took place when I was in high school. In 1997, Officer Jeremy Charron was killed when he approached a car to check on two sleeping men. One of the men shot him. This was just days after Troopers Scott Philips and Leslie Lord were killed during a traffic stop. In fact, Charron had returned from the troopers' funerals the morning he was killed. I remember that week vividly.
Capital murder is the only capital offense in NH. Murder of a law enforcement officer is capital murder.
I'm a giant dirty hippie, am all about gun control, but NH has SUCH lax gun control policies. And you know what? In 2010, NH's gun murder rate per 100,000 people was 0.4. The only state with a lower number is Vermont with 0.3. Something is working. But if those numbers don't fluctuate much year to year, a very high percentage of our gun murders are murders of law enforcement officers, and I think half of them were long guns, anyhow.
That last paragraph is neither here nor there. I don't want to discuss gun control in NH. It was just a collection of thoughts I had to get out of my head.
This is a roundabout way of saying I worry. I don't think I worry too much because in the scheme of things, I can't protect S from his job. I am sick that things like this happen. I'm sick that some of the family of the older man learned about this from having WMUR on and "oh man, that's my wife's family!" I'm upset that the shooter has two teenage girls, who not only have no father, they have no father who also killed a police officer. I can't imagine what it will be like for them to return to school. I'm upset I can't be at home right now. I'm sick for Officer Arkell's widow and thier two daughters. I know this: yes, you know that this is a risk you take in this work. That doesn't mean that you go to work thinking "well, I'm risking my life again today," as you get ready for your beat. (I hate when I hear things like that when stories like this happen. "Well, he was a cop, he knew what he was getting into." Go fuck yourself.)
Thanks if you made it this far.
I have a lot of feels, and have sads and angers and sicks. And guilt.