[su_dropcap style=”flat”]N[/su_dropcap]OW THAT some of you have read my first article and are starting to get to know me, I want to continue along that path and share with you fine folks something I learned from a real life tragedy.
I was working day watch patrol on December 16, 1993 in the north end “Santiago District” in the City of Santa Ana, California and it was about 5:30 p.m. during peak rush hour traffic. I heard the “beep-beep” emergency alert radio dispatch tone from my police radio followed with the broadcast of a plane crash in the vicinity of the Newport Freeway and Edinger Avenue. This is a very populated business area that contains an auto mall with surrounding businesses.
Immediately I could see a billowing cloud of dark smoke just to the south of my location as I proceeded with lights and siren to the crash scene.
My unit was probably the first on the scene and it was indeed a nightmare with the heavy smell of aviation fuel burning in the black smoke that engulfed the area. I noticed bent and twisted metal and other debris within the crash site.
Suddenly, as I emerged from my police unit I spotted what looked like a rack of smoked ribs lying on the ground (it did not occur to me that they were human) and scattered about were various small pieces of flesh and scraps of clothing and seat cushions.
My burning eyes were drawn to a severed hand that had a few fingers still attached and I noticed a gold wedding band on the left index finger.
I called out on my portable radio that I needed all the back-up officers possible along with the fire department and medics to respond to control the crash site.
In the midst of this utter devastation, I spotted gang members on the crash scene and they appeared to be looking for items to take for whatever unknown reason. I drew my service weapon and ordered them to leave the scene using a few well-placed expletives!
I remembered the wedding band on the index finger of the severed hand and decided right then and there I was going to protect this from the savages. I covered the hand with a yellow plastic blanket that I got from my unit’s trunk.
The processing of the crash scene went on for the remainder of the night and well into the next few days. It was later reported that five persons had perished in this fiery jet crash and it was only through the grace of God that no one on the ground was injured or killed. The pilot was able to auger his stricken craft into the only open area in that very crowded district; I remember seeing part of the front end of the plane actually buried into the ground.
I later learned through the police chaplain that the wedding band belonged to one of the passengers who had been killed. The ring was later returned to his grieving wife. She had said that her and her husband had argued before he had departed without resolution or with loving words or a kiss. Words now that can never ever be said and feelings that can never ever be expressed!
The things we leave un-said with the ones we truly love, no matter what the circumstances of our absence, can (as in this dreadful incident) leave the ones we lost or left behind with a lifetime of guilt and recriminations without any doubt!
As a professional police officer, I have been called to many a scene of other unexpected deaths and I have always wondered if the deceased had been able to leave nothing “un-said” to the ones that meant the most to them?
I have learned from these life experiences. I make it a point to tell my friends and my family that I love them since I know better than most just how fragile our lives are with no guarantee of tomorrow.
Well, that’s it until next time, this is “Gumshoe” signing off for now. Be well, be safe, people love you!