One night, during my stay at the Flagstaff RV Park, I heard police sirens howling into the darkness for what felt like fifteen minutes, jarring my sleep, and prompting time to move slowly. Gradually, intervals of silence were broken by additional cries, more units arriving from distant parts of the city. It was after 11:30PM, and the nighttime ambience of the forest permeated our little park.
The experience was strange yet familiar and not entirely unwelcome.
I was snapping into full awareness of an emerging incident, the boundaries of which had yet to be defined. As I listened, it sounded like the units were arriving close to us, somewhere along the highway.
The summer night was broken by those familiar noises, at once comforting and intrusive.
For anyone who has worked on patrol, sirens cause a number of involuntary responses to take place. Heart rate and breathing increase; that pit of the stomach feeling rises; adrenaline pours out like spring rain. If you are no longer a patrol professional--perhaps even retired and camping at an RV park--you remind yourself to take some deep breaths. Still, you want to see what's taking place in your environment, so you investigate.
With that, I sat up in bed, as the dogs snored beside me, and a cool breeze pushed through the screen of my window. I wondered what had taken place, and what was about to happen with the additional officers, their sirens falling silent upon arrival.
Soon after rising to the occasion, I noticed the familiar rhythm of pulsating lights, splashes of color emanating from nearby vehicles. Needless to say, I stepped out of my RV to investigate.
Now, I'm not someone who enjoys interfering with law enforcement. I actually spent my career chastising busybodies, dispersing crowds as police and fire units approached scenes of chaos. These days, I check things from a safe distance, taking note of dangerous situations that might persist--long after the police have departed and I'm on my own. Situational awareness remains with you, rising, periodically, into the tranquil years of retirement.
The night continued to unfold, as I checked the area around my rig.
I could see no more than a single light bar flashing in the distance, fairly close to the marijuana dispensary--big surprise. Police radio transmissions were faint and evaporated into the darkness--nothing to see here folks, move along. I actually said that a couple of times during my career.
The following morning, I asked a neighbor if he had heard the nighttime commotion. Without looking up from his task, he shrugged and said, "Nah, I was asleep, didn't hear anything." And that's the way it goes.
I laughed and reminded myself that I am no longer who I once was,
no longer the one in uniform who shows up to the unfolding disaster,
breathing deeply to assess the scene
and call for additional units;
no longer the one to clear bystanders from the area and place yellow tape;
no longer the one to write reports;
no longer the one to collect emotional wounds that often refuse to heal--no longer the one who serves.
As the morning unfolds, I remind myself of all these things and carry on with the day. I walk the dogs and enjoy summer breezes, always ready to smile and thank police officers, park rangers, and firefighters when I happen to see them on duty.