“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
– Nelson Mandela
Years ago, when I was screenwriter, I wrote a script about police widows, and no, it never got made, and yes, it had many “thisclosethisclose“ moments. I wrote it for Ned Tanen, the President/Head of Production at Paramount Pictures at the time; he was a good man, a great mentor.
I read an article in a women’s magazine, the title of which escapes me, about how New York City police widows had formed a group, Survivors of the Shield. This was back in the early 90’s. They were fighting the bureaucracy along with the brass at One Police Plaza.
I spent months researching; months speaking with police widows – an extraordinary, awe-inspiring group of women — along with the police partners of slain officers. I worked closely with Mario Cuomo‘s office, and his gubernatorial team because I wanted to help get it right. Cuomo was a huge advocate for these women and their children. What was extraordinary to me – stunning – was the camaraderie between the women: black women and white women; Latino women & Muslim women; Asian, Jewish and Christian women. All of these women had lost their husbands to violence. Whether it was gun violence, drug deals, bombs detonated, or gang shootings, they shared a deep bond.
They took care of each other.
They loved each other.
They had each others’ back.
The funerals lined the streets, three and four deep. The grieving was palpable. The faces of the thousands of officers, cops – both women and men – standing shoulder-to-shoulder saluting their fallen comrade(s) as the carriage carrying the coffin (or coffins in some case), draped with the American flag, would pass.
The faces of the widows; the faces of the children holding tight to a perfectly folded American flag that was given to them for an act of bravery. One widow told me it was like being Jackie Kennedy for the day. Another widow, whose husband was gunned down in cold blood, told me that when he left for work every morning, she would pray to God to please, please, please bring him home at night.
I interviewed cops who lost their partners. Their stories were filled with deep profound sadness; the kind of sadness that lived and stayed in their eyes. One cop – a black cop – told me about his partner, a white guy. They’d been partners for a few years, following a ton of tension at the beginning of their partnership. A couple of times they each, on their own, requested transfers. The whole black, white dance. Don’t get too close, you ain‘t my friend, you ain’t my Brother, screw you, no f**k you. Attitude, pent up anger, entitlement – the whole shebang. But they spent every single day together sitting in a patrol car working through their crap because their job was not only to protect and serve but they had to protect each other. So, in that car they got to know each other: slowly, surely, and cautiously. They even delivered a baby together; a woman who was giving birth in the back of her car – while one said push, push, push, push, push, the other one – with the help of the very shocked husband – brought that baby into the world. The woman named her newborn after both cops. A proud moment, no doubt.
They would sit.
They would argue.
They would bicker.
They would disagree.
They would talk about everything – from Sports – the Yankees, the Mets, the Giants, the Jets – to the horrific racial tension that was sweeping the City at the time. And when the time came for the black officer to be promoted, he said – half-jokingly – he’d only take the promotion if his partner was promoted along with him.
But that never happened because his partner bled to death in his arms; a drug deal gone horribly awry. And they didn’t even work narcotics; they just answered a call. On that day, years and years ago, I asked him what he missed the most about his partner. He listed a whole bunch of things – quirks, a couple of funny stories – ‘He always had to have a toothpick dangling from his mouth; he chain-smoked Marlboros – evil cigarettes, nasty. I wanted him to smoke menthols, Newports.’
I asked him what he remembered most, and he said, “He used to talk about his wife all the time. We’d sit in the car, hours and hours, some days it was boring as hell, but once you got him started, man, all he’d talk about was her. I knew everything about her. The kinda clothing she liked, the kinda perfume she wore, the way she liked her tea. Little things. The kinda music she loved listening to – Aretha. White girls love Aretha. You hear someone going on about someone they love – a wife, a kid – you know, you can’t help but start lovin’ those people. You can’t help but love them, you don’t ever have to meet them or see them, just hearing about them seeps into your skin. You love them before you ever meet them. We were both shot that day, I was bleeding, but…him, I had him in my arms, cradling him like a baby; he was pouring blood, man, it was squirting everywhere, and when I looked down at my hands I couldn’t tell his blood from mine.”
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Women’s eNews weekly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ for 2018. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.