It’s Tuesday morning here in DC and its time to pack my bags and flee this beautiful city. I get nervous when the police are around and there are several thousand here at present! Seriously, I’m meeting my mother, sister and brother this morning and we are heading off to Philadelphia for a couple of days. It will be good to spend some time with them as the last 2 days have been manic and I’ve not seen them very much.
I see on my last post, I promised to write more about arriving in Dc etc.
Well when we arrive in DC, the survivors (relatives of deceased officers) are sent to the front of the ride and they lead us into the memorial. I was lucky and was in the line not far behind them. I had meticulously planned with my family where to stand and rode on the left side of the ride so as to ride past them. My sister texted me to tell me exactly where they were stood, which was where I had told them. Then the ride came down the street from the opposite direction! – damn American’s – first they drive on the wrong side of the street, now they have us cycling the wrong way. Anyway, I did manage to see my mother and vice versa. It was a special moment riding into the memorial as ever, but even more so as a result of some of my family being there. If only Michelle had been able to make it out, then it would have been perfect.
Once we had ridden through the memorial, it was time to find friends, family and those in whose memory we had ridden. This year was a little chaotic as I had not made plans. I met my family, then I met the family of Preston Parnell, the US Postal Service Inspector I had ridden in memory of and handed over my bracelet to them. Then I met Barb’s mother who had surprised her by meeting her at the memorial. Finally, I got to say more than a few words to my family and introduced them to my Police Unity Tour family.
There is always a welcoming ceremony at the memorial. As it was about to start, I saw 2 Metropolitan Police officers in full uniform. I approached them and said words to the effect of “you should be riding with us next year not in uniform”. Immediately one officer said to me,”You’re Peter Bennett, we’ve been looking for you all week!” Sudden panic sets in and I am wondering if you can be extradicted for not paying a library book fine dating back 30 years?… It turned out they wanted to let me know about the ride being planned for the UK in July. Relief!
At the ceremony, Craig Floyd the CEO of the Memorial made a specific mention of me and a conversation we had. I was also mentioned by the President of Chapter 1 of the Police Unity Tour in his speech. It is nice to get recognition although I ride for those who died and for my pleasure, not recognition.
Sunday night was a few beers and a meal with our Ohio group and some of Lisa’s team from Ontario. Jeremy and I left after the meal to go to another restaurant – no, not for more food, but to get one of the Copper Ale Commemorative glasses from the Chop House. It is a tradition that the Chop House brews a special beer and provides glasses to mark Police Week. Whilst at the bar having a few beers, I was stood next to someone who was clearly unhappy or uncomfortable at being surrounded by police officers. He could have done better than coming out in the centre of DC on a night when there are in excess of 20,000 police officers in town and the Chop House is one of the most famous venues for police parties.
The one downside about Sunday was that I never got to speak to Michelle. We never managed to co-ordinate our schedules. It seemed like I was missing an important aspect of my day.
Monday 13th May is the date of the candlelight vigil. I spent part of the morning at the memorial. Foolishly, I looked at some of the tributes left to the fallen.
Do you need to ask why I ride after reading that tribute. Even now some 24 hours on it is heartbreaking to read.
After leaving the memorial, Jeremy and I went to the Fraternal Order of Police’s “Tent City” which is a bar/ market. We then came back to the hotel as Jeremy was taking part in the vigil. He was escorting survivors from the coaches to their seats, so he had to be in full dress uniform. I used the time to chat to Michelle and then after that to sort out a little gift for Mike to thank him for all he has done for us all over the last 4 years. I managed 2 skype calls to Michelle today. Sadly neither were as long as I would have liked, but I have Friday to look forward to as Michelle is coming down to be with me. It seems so much harder when the distance is thousands of miles.
I had dinner with part of my group and a journalist from Cleveland, Ohio and then we all attended a ceremony at the US Postal Service Museum to honour their fallen officer, Preston Parnell one of 2 officer’s in whose memory I rode. The ceremony was a very nice ceremony and was hosted in a wonderful building. The US Postal Museum is worth visiting in DC. It is next to the Equally wonderful Union Station. It is a little bit more impressive than say London Euston!
The candlelight vigil provided me with the chance to meet Jeffrey Davies’ father and family and hand over my bracelet to them. It was a very difficult time for them, and seeing their hurt made me realise just how important the Police Unity Tour is and how it helps heal the grief. It is the coming together of the Law Enforcement family to support its own.
The Vigil is sad in so many ways, not least because it entails saying goodbye to so many friends.
Today is a new day, and its off to Philadelphia as I said before, before heading home on Thursday