man named Henrik Ibsen had one said, “A community is like
a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.”
is no shortage of generosity in Central New York. The Mohawk Valley
has always been a special place were benevolence breeds amongst
itself. When a hand in need is extended, our community has always
stepped up to fill that need. But no matter how much or how often
this area has given, no one could have imagined how many people
would step up on April 12, 2007.
was a bitter cold and rainy April night, a scene that set the tone
for what would become one of Utica's worst tragedies. For the second
time in a little more than a year, the police scanners in Central
New York were afire with urgency: "We have an officer down."
Channel 2 interrupted programming with breaking news: A Utica Police
Officer had been shot and killed...No further details were available.
citizen in the area spent the next 12 hours glued to the TV and
on the phone trying to find out if it was their friend, their neighbor,
their co-worker's husband, wife, son or daughter. Anyone who had
ever known a Utica Police officer had a pit in their stomach wondering
if it was someone they knew.
phone lines at headquarters rang off the hook. Every available officer
was at the scene and those off-duty called to see if they could
Neilson Street, a tarp laid over the spot where a shadow in the
night had stolen the life of a Utica police officer. The faces of
law enforcement, politicians, neighbors, news media and a police
chief displayed grief, shock, stress and fear. Some just stared
blankly into the night, while ignoring the rain, or tears, running
down their faces.
the press conference the next day, the world fell silent as Police
Chief C. Allen Pylman, while trying to contain his emotions, told
the news: At 9:20 pm, April 12, 2007, Utica Police Officer Thomas
M. Lindsey was shot and killed in the line of duty.
COMMUNITY STEPS UP
days following were difficult for the Utica Police Department. There
was little time for reflection, tears and to process the chilling
thought: "It could have been me." Work needed to be done:
A murder had to be investigated, a funeral needed to be planned.
they weren't alone. The Calvary came out of nowhere and they came
in great numbers. From near and far they came, marching over the
hill, by the masses offering whatever they could: Food, water, flowers,
services, money, prayers and of course, more food. For anything
that was needed, they came and they gave. Children made cards and
grandmothers made food. Business gave money, and restaurants gave
food. Police Agencies from all over the globe called, and they sent
cards, sent men and sent food.
the week went by, the snow melted, and the sun came out. The day
of the funeral was neither too warm nor too cold, but a perfect
day for the funeral of one whose last night on earth was so cold
agencies from all over New York State lined up outside the church
next to school children, community leaders, friends, neighbors and
the average citizen. Genesee Street was lined with mourners from
Amy Ave. all the way to the alter inside Our Lady of Lourdes Church.
In the midst of it all, the Syracuse Police Department arrived in
such an impressive number, it caused everyone to take notice.
the procession began, police supervisors organized their units into
nice, neat little rows. Tommy's co-workers all stood tall as they
lined up two-by-two behind Lt. Louis Capri and Sgt. Tom Brady. Standing
along side his fellow honor guard, Sgt. Wayne Manolescue clutched
his rifle, waiting to fulfill his heart-felt duty. Three US Marines,
stood at attention, barely breathing, barely blinking. Chief Pylman
read over his eulogy notes amongst the bag pipers. Officer Joe Cucharale,
Tommy's escort for the day, stood by the fallen officer's side,
as if keeping him company. Captain Clay Stephens found himself every
where at once as he made sure it would all come together perfectly.
everyone waited, there was little talk about what had actually happened
on that terrible night just a few days before. The conversations
were nothing more than chit-chat. That is until the procession started.
the flip of a light switch, everyone went silent, heads held heavy
and eyes fell to the ground. Out of respect, no one dared look into
the eyes of those around them in fear of invading their privacy
by stealing a glimpse of their grieving souls.
alone with their thoughts, each person must have taken note of the
the enormity of the event and what it must have taken to get so
much together in such a short time.
week before, everyone, including Tommy, were all living their normal,
routine, little lives with absolutely no idea they would be standing
here today. How quickly life can change.
the first time since April 12th, it was no longer about the tragedy
of the murder, but simply about a man and his life. It was all about
who Utica Police Officer Thomas M. Lindsey was, and the life he
led. It was about a son, a friend, a police officer, a marine and
the day each and every person learned more about Tommy than they
already knew. There were tears and laughter, blank stares and subtle
were so many faces, so many people. It was such an enormous event
that from Heaven, everyone there must have looked like a colony
of ants. But on the ground, their sorrow was larger than life.
when everyone took a moment to raise their heavy heads and look
around, they were shocked and awed at the masses that stood around
them. They found that in the same place were a brave officer had
fallen, an entire community, that reached far beyond the boarders
of Utica, NY, had compassionately stood up and faced fear, grief
and their own mortality without hesitation.