There is no longer such a thing as a quick trip to the library. Whenever she picks up her new book or drops off her old one, she always takes the opportunity to sit in the town square and gaze on the tree. The previously nothing-special tree.
It’s a typical town square tree: a not-too-big trunk you can wrap your hands around, a canopy you can walk under without ducking, its leaves providing a small radius of shade during the hot parts of the year. The tree emerges directly out of a grate plopped into the pavement. Along with a few identical siblings in the square, this tree has borne witness to frolicking children of summer and cheerful holiday carolers in winter, plus various festivals throughout the year.
Now the tree IS special. Not for being the backdrop to happiness, but for being the closest witness to a tragedy, a horrible tragedy.
This tree is the marking place where Officer Ben Gladley fell on that dreadful day, the first day of summer, a time that should have been all about fullness and promise.
The murder happened first (duh), but I’ll start with the funeral.
Thousands of people attended the memorial services for Officer Gordon Beesley, who had been the School Resource Officer at my children’s middle school. I’m tempted to say 5,000, but my estimation could be off by a little or a lot in either direction. At least half of the attendees in the megachurch were men and women in uniform. The rest were friends of the Beesley family and members of the school community.
The service lasted more than 2 hours and was brilliantly done. It reversed what I’d been doing all week — thinking of Officer Beesley’s death — and took it back to where our attention belonged, on his life.