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The Worst Day of Your Life

Hello, once again my gentle readers. This past Holy Week prior to Easter got good old Gumshoe thinking about life in general. Definitely, a time of personal reflection that stirred past memories of being the messenger of terrible tidings on one too many times to family members. A loved one is dead.

It is often said during B.S. sessions among veteran coppers that no one ever calls 911 just to report that they are doing fine and that they just wanted to say their cheerful hello’s to the guys and gals on police patrol. It was further joked among these veteran street monsters that it was better to be a firefighter. Really!

Just because you can sleep until you’re hungry and then eat until you are tired. You always work as a team on all of the fire calls and everyone gets to perfect their favorite food recipes. In fire station workout gym equipment and a great work schedule with several days off at a time.

Gumshoe personal note: I never met a firefighter who did not have an outside job; a ski boat; RV or a mountain cabin or an ex-wife or two.

You get to watch TV and folks just love to see you since you rescue their cats from trees and do a lot of “show and tells” for school kids during their firehouse visits. This of course is in between shinning your manly fire engines (apparatuses) and practicing sliding down the station fire polls. Wheeee!

Gumshoe thinks that if most cops are honest, there is a wee bit of envy and professional jealousy for firefighters. Really!

Gumshoe definitely respects them for answering the call when things are ablaze and the smoke is blinding.

The additional risk of “HazMat“ (Hazardous Materials) and cancer-causing toxic stuff exposure inside your lungs is most assuringly a buzz kill. God bless every one of you helmet-wearing heroes!

Now on the other end of the public safety spectrum are us lowly blue suiters driving our black and white hacks. Uber-mobiles by way of 911. Coppers mostly work alone in most jurisdictions but they do get a partner on some calls like domestic violence, crimes in progress, and shots fired.

One call that every cop works solo is giving a death notice to unsuspecting family members. You’re the badge-wearing, gun-toting messenger in blue or green or tan who personally experiences a family member/s worst day. There you are and you can never anticipate exactly how that death notice will detonate the explosion of disbelief, shock, anger, tears . . .to the recipient.

Gumshoe would emotionally brace himself. My mantra was to be professional, not robotic, and be compassionate. Never say you know how they feel — you don’t. Be human and forget about the badge. A hug, a shoulder to cry on was not uncommon. Sometimes a shared prayer. Amen.

Gumshoe’s advice: Go home every night and love your wife, your son, and your daughter, and thank God that you don’t have that unexpected “death notice knock” at the door.

Gumshoe would sometimes dream about being a firefighter but he would never admit it.

Until next time folks always remember to love the ones who love you and really try to love those who don’t.

Coram Deo!

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Danny Pitocco
Danny Pitocco
RETIRED (as a Detective with the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Department, Washington State), Danny has over forty years of law enforcement experience across city, county, state and federal levels of government, including service as a Special Agent for the DEA, US Department of Justice. He’s a decorated law enforcement veteran, and recipient of the "Detective of the Year" award for Snohomish County, Danny is a certified composite artist and has testified as an expert witness in the field of narcotics and modus operandi of particular crimes in state and federal courts in California, and has given testimony before federal grand juries. Danny served four years of active duty in the US Marine Corps and loves Jesus as his personal savior.

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6 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Another great article Gumshoe. I usually stopped at Engine 8 during my shift. Could have a decent cup of coffee, nice bathroom stop and if I hit it right might even get invited to have something to eat during my Sig 98(Dinner Break). One of my brother officers had a couple of Uncles on the Syracuse Fire Department and one that died in the line of duty during the Collins Block Fire (Google it) in which the SFD lost a few firefighters that day. The guys at Engine 8 would tell me that they couldn’t get paid enough to do what I did and I would tell them the same. Both of us though always run to the danger not away from it. You are also right about making “Notifications”. That was the one part of the job that no one liked especially if it involved a child. That was the one opportunity to show honest compassion and humility to the person on the receiving end of the notification.
    It was also a wake up call of “But for the grace of God go I”.
    Today is Easter Sunday and I have been blessed with a great family.
    Happy Easter to you and your family.
    Semper Fi

    • Great comment Tom. Your absolutely right about they not paying me enough to run into fires while my firefighter friends would tell me the same about being a cop.

      We are truly blessed to enjoy our family along with our well-earned retirements. Blessings my brother in blue!

    • Thanks Ken for your kind comment. I always believe that God puts you in the right place at the right time. A joyous Easter you and yours my friend.

  2. Thanks Mike. We both presented the grim news, but you had the opportunity to follow-up with the inmates. A very difficult task since they had to cope with the loss behind bars. Your right on one account though, Gumshoe loved the adrenaline rushes being a cop.

  3. I don’t know Gumshoe…..you may have been too much of an adrenaline junkie for a firefighter career! From what I hear (son-in-law being a fire captain), things can get fairly monotonous (depending on the fire station). Death notices always hard – gave my share behind the bars (as a correctional worker & then a chaplain). Everyone grieves in their own way. The advantage for me was having the opportunity to do follow up visits with the loved one. Death has a way of opening relational doors. Good write bro!

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