Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How Does Omaha #KerrieOn?

(Disclaimer: Not sports related.)

Twenty years ago, I was working at Mutual of Omaha when Omaha police officer Jimmy Wilson, Jr. was shot and killed. The funeral procession came up Farnam Street, so I joined hundreds of my co-workers that day to pay our respects to Wilson and his family that day. It was the least we could do, and it was incredibly moving. To this day, I remember his grief-stricken father waving and repeatedly saying "thank you" to the community.  (In all honesty, it was us that should have been saying "thank you." We merely lost some of our lunch hour; he lost his son.)

Now, I work at Union Pacific, and once again, I joined my co-workers in another sad tribute for another Omaha police officer who was killed while on-duty: Officer Kerrie Orozco. I suspect that nearly everyone gathered along Douglas Street in downtown Omaha, or Broadway in Council Bluffs had never heard of Kerrie Orzco one week ago.

We'll never forget her now. Her selfless volunteering with inner-city youth sports programs makes her a wonderful role model. And the story of her plans to bring her prematurely born daughter home from the hospital the next day didn't just break our hearts, it shattered them into a gazillion pieces.
No doubt in my mind that her family will carry on. The outpouring of support from this community will ensure that the family's financial needs should be taken care of. What can't be replaced, however, is her. In ten or fifteen years, she'll watch the videos from the past week and get a better idea who her mother was.  A mother that she never knew.

Some people will point to the outpouring of support and wear it with pride as to how great our community is. And it is great.

But this is also the community that was described last year as the "most dangerous city in America to be black." Maybe the numbers were interpreted wrong and maybe Omaha isn't the "most dangerous"...but it doesn't change the fact that Omaha has a problem. And it's a problem that I quite honestly don't understand.  And I'm not going to pretend that I understand either.

I'm torn on this.  I frankly don't know what to think about the problem. I certainly want to #SupportBlue. But I'm also not going to ignore State Senator Ernie Chambers when he said that "my ISIS is the police." Quite a few blowhards tried to make political hay at the time on it, but subsequent incidents in Charleston and Baltimore where police officers were charged with murder make it clear that Chambers' perspective has some validity. It's not an either-or problem; it's a community problem.

It doesn't really matter who's right or wrong. We're losing too many people.  Pointing fingers isn't going to help.  Last week, a little baby lost her mother, a mother who was doing everything in her power to make a difference.  How does Omaha #KerrieOn without her?

That's the question that needs an answer.

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