Friday, March 12, 2010

Paying Our Respects

On Tuesday, Jackson, Michigan, police officer James Bonneau, 26, was shot and killed by a drunken suspect whom he was approaching to discuss a domestic disturbance earlier in the day.  The suspect was killed in the shootout.  Bonneau is a native of Canton, Michigan, about 55 miles east of Jackson, and was buried today in his hometown.

To get from Jackson to Canton, most folks wind up driving down Ford Road in Superior Township, Michigan, which is the main road nearest to my house.  That's how it happened that about 7:45 this morning, my daughter and I turned onto Ford Road on the way to school and came face to face with the longest line of emergency vehicles, all with their lights flashing, that either of us had ever seen.  My daughter gasped, thinking that something really awful must have happened to require such a huge response.  It took me a moment, but I soon remembered an alert I had received from the Sheriff's Department warning of traffic disruptions later in the morning, and I figured that this was a caravan of first responders driving to Officer Bonneau's funeral.

The portion of Ford Road we were on is technically a "divided highway."  That means that, by law, we did not have to pull over to the side for emergency vehicles traveling in the other direction.  But continuing to drive did not seem like the right thing to do, so I pulled over and said, "I think we'll pay our respects."  I explained that an officer had died in the line of duty, and she gasped again.  It has been more than a year since Michigan lost one of its finest.

The entire procession probably took three or four minutes.  That may not seem like a lot, but consider how many cars can pass a given point in that span of time.  This was a very long procession.  I started reading off the Police Departments from the sides of the cars:  Jackson, Concord, Jackson County Sherriff, Spring Arbor, Grass Lake . . . There were two tour buses interspersed among the police cars, presumably carrying mourners who were not bringing a squad car.  I told my daughter, "These guys put their life out there on the line every day, really for us.  I just think we can wait a minute or two."

We watched a little bit longer, and then I turned off the ignition and both of us got out of the car to stand at the side of the road so our gesture of respect could be more visible to the people in the procession.  I wished I was wearing a hat so I could take it off.  I thought I saw one officer look out the window of his cruiser and nod in our direction.  The procession ended with two cars and an engine from the Jackson fire department. 

The procession we saw was not anywhere near all of the departments who sent representatives to Officer Bonneau's service today.  In addition to departments from throughout Michigan, departments from Ohio were also present to show solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Jackson and to honor one of their own.

Today was a hard day to be a Jackson cop.  It was a hard day to be a Michigan cop, and maybe, particularly if you were representing your department at the service, a hard day to be any kind of cop at all.  I hope that, for at least one or two of the mourners, the sight of a woman and an 11 year-old girl standing by the side of the road lent some measure of support.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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