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HACKETT: Officers lost too soon

As I sat down to write this column, the original headline I was working on felt eerily similar. On “loss and grief” were the words that first popped into my head, with an instant pang that I had heard them or read them before.
Police investigate the scene where two officers were shot and killed on duty in Edmonton on Thursday, March 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

As I sat down to write this column, the original headline I was working on felt eerily similar. On “loss and grief” were the words that first popped into my head, with an instant pang that I had heard them or read them before.

Turns out they were my own words, earlier last year. This kind of loss hits in a much different way on several fronts.

As word trickled out Thursday morning about the killing of two Edmonton police officers, Const. Travis Jordan, 35, and Const. Brett Ryan, 30, so many thoughts quickly swirled in my head.

Their age. They were so damn young – at least as a nearly 34-year-old, that’s how I view a 30-year-old with nearly five years as a police officer and a 35-year-old, who had a large family and a whole life ahead cut way too short. Ryan and his wife were expecting a child, according to some media reports.

Their job. These are the people who had sworn to protect the City of Edmonton and things like this aren’t supposed to happen here. In the United States, definitely, but here, we just are not conditioned like the Americans have been over the two decades to deal with a tragedy like this.

It’s the first time since 2015 that an Edmonton Police Service officer has been killed in the line of duty. The two officers in Edmonton were also the sixth and seventh police officers to be killed in the past six months across the country. A horrific and troubling detail in this story.

I have friends who are police officers. They put their lives on the line to protect and serve and do it with a smile. Maybe not all the time with that last part. But they try.

I think about them at a time like this, especially the ones with kids. I can’t comprehend the level of loss that those families would feel if they lost their dad. It leaves a lump in my throat if I even think about it for too long. This tragedy brings those people to the forefront of my mind.

People in law enforcement all understand the risks that they take. While the rest of us go about our daily lives, they are up at the crack of dawn or in the middle of the night to work a shift. While we’re drinking our coffee in the safety of our own home, they’re out there trying to keep the community safe.

“My brother had a calling that came to him at a very, very young age. He talked about being a police officer since the day he could talk. He spent hours arresting Bert and Earnie as a child,” wrote Jordan’s sister on Facebook.

“My brother and his wife flew across the country leaving their families behind to protect and serve the citizens of Edmonton. My brother put his uniform on every single day with pride. My brother lived for his job. My brother LOVED his job. My brother was good at his job. My brother was ONE of the best, and every single person who got to work with him, got helped by him, and perhaps even got a ticket are lucky they had him.”

A story came out Thursday in the wake of the shooting about Const. Jordan and the helping hand he lent a woman in March of 2020. She was pulled over, her car covered in snow. She thought she could make a short drive to the store and because most stores were closed around that time.

She was pulled over and after she explained her story, Jordan pulled out his brush and helped the woman out.

She praised Jordan for the act of kindness and was eventually able to track him down and thank him.

It’s crazy to think about what the world was like even three years ago and how different it is now. We all need to remember Const. Jordan’s kindness that day and how much he loved his job.

I just finished a book recently, called The Last Lecture, which is an adapted lecture from an American professor who gives one last lecture as he is dying of pancreatic cancer, in the hopes that he is able to pass on some wisdom to his kids.

That sadness washes over me in thinking that these men won’t ever get that chance to write or share a message with their kids. To play on the swings or play a game of catch.

What Randy Pausch, the author, stresses so much is to reach for your dreams. Even if it seems farfetched or unattainable, be unrelenting in the pursuit of that dream. Ask for help a long the way, specifically he says “just ask,” which he notes is something a lot of people are unwilling to do.

I like to think these officers were pursuing their dream. To serve and protect. To wear that uniform proudly and honour the rich tradition that it carries. I’m sure they had other dreams too, outside the pursuit of their desired profession.

They’ll never get a chance to write that next chapter – to travel further along the road of life.

If anything, this tragedy should serve as another reminder to hold your loved ones close while you can, love them with all the passion you can muster and never forget to tell those close to you how much they mean, because tomorrow isn’t always a guarantee.

To the loved ones, families, friends and co-workers of Const. Jordan and Const. Ryan, I’m sorry you never got that chance to say goodbye. Our deepest sympathies go out to you.

They will forever stand tall and strong in our hearts and memories.

Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

Byron Hackett

About the Author: Byron Hackett

Byron has been the sports reporter at the advocate since December of 2016. He likes to spend his time in cold hockey arenas accompanied by luke warm, watered down coffee.
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