Like many Americans, this reporter spent a good part of the wee hours of Christmas morning working to keep our pipes from freezing, while praying that the water would keep flowing.
While sipping coffee in the glow of the twinkling Christmas lights, I was suddenly taken back to another Christmas morning, decades earlier…
In the pre-dawn hours of December 25, 1972, I was awoken by some type of commotion coming from down the hall. As I opened my eyes, I could just barely make out some red twinkling lights through the thick curtains my mom kept on my window.
Not unlike any 5-year-old child, I expected to see Santa’s sled on my front lawn.
However, after tip-toeing across the floor and ever so slightly peeking out from an edge of the curtain, it was not Santa I saw, but two police cars in front of my house on that cold morning.
Back then, the Norfolk Police Department (Va.) (NPD) ran only red lights atop their cruisers.
Confused, I eased open my bedroom door and ever so quietly slipped out into the hallway.
But, it was not Santa placing presents around the tree I saw. Instead, I was startled to see my dad’s pajama-clad legs stretched out on the living room floor.
An exhausted NPD officer was kneeling beside him putting all of his might into the compressions he was delivering upon my dad’s chest. Another was next to his head, pinching his nose and blowing into his mouth, when the other officer would nod to him.
These two officers were keeping my dad alive…
Though it was very cold, the front door was propped open, while awaiting the arrival of the paramedics. And though the air now filling the house was frigid, the officer performing the chest compressions had taken off his cap and I could see the beads of sweat forming upon this man’s forehead.
I was so transfixed on what these two officers were doing, I didn’t even notice my mom and my grandparents standing near the fireplace, watching this frightening scene.
Suddenly, the paramedics rushed in and began opening what looked to me like tackle boxes.
The officers continued their tasks unabated.
I saw one of the medics turning dials, and heard a whining noise and out came the paddles.
Just then, my grandfather’s eyes met mine and ran down the hall to swoop me up in his arms, carrying me back to my room.
My “Papa” (grandfather) told me that my dad “had a bad cold, but would be alright,” and after much discussion and hugs, he convinced me to stay in my room.
As I sat on my bed, awaiting news, I heard noises outside.
I saw dad being loaded into the awaiting ambulance, as one of the officers helped my mom inside for the thankfully short ride to the hospital. My Papa joined the convoy and all of the red lights and sirens went screaming down Spotswood Avenue..
I learned years later that my dad had been bringing presents down from the attic, and suddenly collapsed on the floor with a massive heart attack…It would be three weeks until I saw him again.
Fortunately, he recovered from the heart attack and from what at the time, was a somewhat primitive triple bypass surgery.
I lost my dad in 2004, nearly 32 years after that harrowing Christmas morning.
Due to the expertise, care and tenacity of those two NPD officers. I was given three more decades with my dad, and we made the most of them.
Five decades ago, those two officers gave me the best Christmas present I have ever received…my dad.
You see, police officers provide these lifesaving gifts every day in this country.
Unfortunately, too many of us tend to overlook such compassion, which they will humbly tell you “is just part of the job.”
So, thank you to the men and women of the Norfolk Police Department and police officers everywhere, some of whom undoubtedly saved someone else’s Christmas this year.
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