There are just some days that defy understanding or explanation. Sometimes days are have so many emotions packed into them that it is almost like running a marathon, and when you finally slow down, you finally feel the affects of going so hard for so long.
Last night after a busy work day, two law enforcement support meetings, followed by gymnastics for one child, and homework for another, I finally got to sit still. When I did that, I realized that I had on the table more pieces of the puzzle from that night so many months ago – January 2, 2012. I had asked, and been given, the squad cam and personal mic recordings from the team that found Frank the night of his accident.
I have talked about wanting to see this footage for some time, and it wasn’t until recently that I thought to ask for it. I was not sure if the department was going to want me to see it – not because they hide things from me, but because they would worry about the trauma that it may cause me. I try to be acutely aware of my emotional reaction to things tied to Frank’s accident, because even when I don’t admit it, I know that at times, parts of this process still cause me to catch my breath.
I did not hesitate to open the first DVD and put it into the computer. The first section was the one that matters the most – it is the video from Frank’s car, moments prior to the crash. I already knew that the camera was knocked out at impact, so there is nothing too surprising, yet I felt my hart race, the tightness in my chest, and the fear of watching the car slide sideways and head towards the tree. I watched the video three times, and every time I close my eyes moments before impact.
The other videos are of Frank’s team arriving on the scene. What you see on the screen is not what is important. What you hear on the tape, is the voices of his teammates, fighting for Frank, to get him out, telling him to hold on, that “we have you buddy, stay with us.”
That is the part that brings the fear and the emotion to the surface.
To hear, in real time, the emotions of these dedicated strong officers, fighting for one of their own, planning on how to get him out, keep him safe, and encouraging him to live.
There were a lot of emotions for me last night, and I was grateful that Frank was sitting next to me, watching, commenting and pointing out the people he knew, and amazed at the amount of people there to help him on that day when he needed them the most.
I never thought I would be able to sleep last night – but thankfully I did.
Today was important and emotional for a few reasons. Frank and I had the day together, which was a blessing. We planned to stop in at a training being done in Edina for law enforcement, as I wanted to meet the trainer of that class, and the Director of the training center. As we headed down, Frank told me that parts of his team would be there – what a wonderful surprise to be able to see some of them again. It is always a good day when I can say hello and thank the officers from the Savage PD.
We entered the training room, and I see many familiar faces, officers from Savage and other departments that I have met before. Frank and I were given a bit of time to speak to the group, and allow people to ask questions of Frank and how his recovery is going – and again, as I have said before, we were asked the questions “What is different now?” The answer is tough for people to hear, but as honest as we can be – On January 2, 2012, the Frank Mackall I knew was killed. He died that day, and I have had to grieve for that loss, and the kids continue to grieve for that loss. Who we have is akin to being married to his twin brother – similar in so many ways, but not the same. Frank likes to tell people that he is the better looking brother, and often, the laughter generated helps to ease that moment.
But that moment is true. It is our life, our trauma, our reality.
After saying goodbye to this group of officers, we headed to St. Paul to our presentation for the day. This was a larger group, and the agenda was to present our story, the impact it had on our family, and for me, to talk about family preparedness. Here, at this presentation, we played the video and audio clips from the accident. The room was still, as this group of people sat watching my life change forever.
And I again didn’t watch the impact.
This presentation for me was emotional as it always is, but not because it is hard to present. The emotional part for me came when I introduced Frank to the audience, and as he made his way up to the stage, he received a standing ovation. The true brotherhood was present and alive in that moment, and THAT is what keeps me sane. Seeing his brothers honor him, show respect for his driving force, and to salute someone that spends every day trying to rejoin them.
It was a joyous moment. It is why I do what I do any time someone asks me to tell our story. If what we are living and doing can make a difference, or reach that one person that needs us, then it is all worth it. You just never know who your words will touch.