Today is my “Alive Day,” an unceremonious anniversary experienced by law enforcement officers recounting the moment in time they survived a lethal encounter.
This is the 20th anniversary of the day I survived a violent attack by a suspect who surprisingly lowered the boom on me with a double-headed lumberjack-style axe.
The details have been well chronicled in other articles. For the purpose of this piece I’ll simply say I survived and my attacker did not.
Unusual day of remembrance
After speaking to many fellow officers over the years, I’ve noticed we pass the unusual day of remembrance with much the same disposition; quiet, if not somber solitude without saying much about the day that could have represented our permanent “end of watch.”
We remember this day with the clarity of a birthday, yet there are no balloons, dinners, or gifts. More often than not our loved ones don’t remember the exact date of occurrence (unless life-altering permanent injuries were suffered) since there are no outward signs of physical or emotional scarring.
Frozen in time
However, for those who have one, we not only remember the exact date, which is seared into our subconscious, but the time of day, address, and name of the individual who tried to take our life. We have images that are frozen in time in our mind and can often reappear, particularly during triggering events.
The day I survived was followed by a trip to the hospital emergency room due to fractured ribs and later surgery to repair a torn labrum in my right shoulder. However, I quickly healed unlike many of my brothers and sisters in blue after their own “Alive Day” experiences.
The traumatic time is also followed by a criminal investigation in which the LEO goes through the same process as a homicide suspect. In all likelihood, it’s the most sobering moment in the officer’s career; especially in today’s culture where there are multi-layered investigations, some conducted by nefarious individuals looking to make a name for themselves by hanging a cop.
A civil lawsuit is usually thrown in as well. In reality, there isn’t much worth remembering. Even the Medal of Valor that is draped over a bookcase in my office doesn’t mean much, other than representing that I survived and the would-be killer did not.
However, celebrating life is what I will always cherish about the ominous day. I will be continually grateful that I was able to see my children grow into adults, graduate college, marry, join the workforce, and have children of their own. I am deeply in debt to my wife who has tolerated a man that matured from a young assertive cop into a seasoned husband who is embracing the philosophy that as a 60-year-old I am simply 18 with 42-years of experience.
(On a side note, my wife remembers vivid details from this day that I’ll share in a future article.)
Alive Day challenges
Sadly, I know a few LEOs who were permanently disabled and “Alive Day” challenges their fortitude and desire to keep chugging along. Tragically, far too many never physically or emotionally recover.
As I experience my uniquely unforgettable day, I have gratitude to God for sparing me, and will love my family with all I have to offer since they could be visiting my gravesite with a fresh bouquet of flowers instead of my reliving the austere memories on the 20th anniversary of the day I survived.
If you struggle with your “Alive Day,” I’d like to recommend “Jurisdiction: A cop and a pastor talk about life.” I believe it will help you put things in perspective and have a better understanding of why bad things happen to good people along with so many other difficult questions.
I co-authored this book with my brother, Dr. Jon McNeff, who was a pastor for 44 years. I believe our blend of experiences will pull back the curtain for the reader on so many levels.
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- How to Discuss Involvement in a Shooting With Your Children
- You’d be surprised to learn what a cop experiences during a fatal encounter