I always thought it would be cool to start each blog post with a song lyric, after all, there is a song for everything. For this post I’d like to start it with “This is the story of a girl, who cried a river and drowned the whole world.” Alas, there were no tears from Tanya. She’s not sure why. Maybe she just pushed it all so far down that it won’t come up. When we spoke on the phone she feared she might cry, she didn’t. When she read Monday’s post, she considered that she might cry, she didn’t. I suppose you could just attribute it to a coping mechanism.
Finding a way to cope in the aftermath of a potential tragedy is important for everyone involved. Being the wife of an officer who has been shot isn’t easy. It’s a huge burden, everyone is looking to her. Is she okay? Can she deal with the press, the accolades and the investigations to come? Will their relationship survive? Will she make it easier for us to deal with our own feelings, or will she make it more difficult?
For Tanya, the natural thing to do was focus on Steve, blocking out everything, and everyone, was the smartest thing she did.
No matter how many times you watch someone put on their uniform and their Kevlar vest, you will never be prepared for a shooting. It was always in the back of Tanya’s mind, but she never quite believed it was going to happen. Warrant serving officers seem to be a favorite target of lunatics with guns. Steve and his team fit the bill perfectly, in hindsight, Tanya realizes it was inevitable that one of them would go down.
She had a lot of time to think about all of this as she sat by his bed, day and night, while he was in the hospital. Taking only the briefest of breaks to see her son. Luckily, at 15 months old, Jaxon was too young to understand what was going on. Someday he will know the story, but not yet.
The hospital offered Tanya and Steve comfort, safety and a refuge from the media surrounding the event. Much too soon, it was time to go home and this is when reality set in for Tanya. As she was taught to care for Steve and his wounds, her primary thought was “Are you (insert random explicative here) kidding me? You saved him only to send him home with me? If he chokes I probably won’t cut the wires quick enough to save him or I’ll give him an infection and kill him!” And off they went, Steve thinking his loving wife was going to care for him, her thinking she was going to kill him. The comfort of the hospital was now gone.
With the loss of comfort, the real world seeped in. Steve became angry and short-tempered, there was enough physical and emotional pain to drive them both mad. But they hung on. Steve is pretty self-aware, he knew he was having problems and needed to deal with them before they took down his family. They sought counseling, Steve was able to write and get his feelings on paper while watched and waited. She knew someone had to be the anchor in the madness.
She listened a lot and asked questions in an effort to get him to reveal more, to get it all out. She knew that he couldn’t keep it in, it would eat him alive. By the end of the first month, Steve was strong enough that he wanted to visit the crime scene. They met up with some of the team and headed over.
It was a difficult, emotional time. Exiting your car as if in slow motion, standing on the ground where a gunfight took place just a few weeks ago. A location where Steve could have taken his last breath. Though the shell casings were long gone, the bullet holes remained. The smell of gunpowder was no longer in the air, but the smell of terror remained. Or was that Steve? Not sure if he was showering at this point….Whatever the smell, they needed the closure. It was time to move forward with the healing process.
Tanya spent months nursing Steve through numerous surgeries, caring for her son and managing well-wishers and the media. She also had to manage the fact that some people disappeared, perhaps it was too much for them. Rather than build a silent resentment against the people who couldn’t contain their emotions long enough to offer her support, she focused on the good. The love in their life and the fact that Steve was still alive.
For Tanya, the most important thing was moving through the fear, trying not to let it get the best of her. She had to focus on what was right and good, that was that Steve was still with her. It took a long time to look at him without having a sinking feeling in her stomach. It took even longer for the anger to pass. Anger at the people that shoot other people without reason, with complete disregard for the families that are waiting for them at home.
What was most important for Steve was getting right back into the thick of it, and Tanya let him go. Despite her fears, she knew he needed to go on a full warrant sweep his first day back. Was she filled with dread? Of course. But she knew Steve as a noble man, valuable to his team and someone who would use his incident to teach others how to survive. And that is exactly what he is doing now.
While Tanya is breathing a little easier today, it wasn’t easy getting here. She feels a sense of relief that Steve no longer has a target on him. What target? The badge on his chest. That target. If he doesn’t text back immediately or answer his phone, she freaks out just a tiny bit until she gets Steve’s tactful response of “still alive”. He is such a card.
The two-year anniversary of Steve’s shooting was a difficult one, Tanya has learned that lightning does strike twice. Their nephew, by Steve’s oldest brother, barely survived a car accident only to be killed in a second accident 2 years and 2 days after the first one. Although Steve hasn’t been shot again, his face, his job and the simple act of getting up in the morning are constant reminders of a tragedy avoided.
Well, folks, that’s all I’ve got. Now you have the whole story from the perspective of 4 of the primary characters, and I do mean characters. You want more? Fine. Check back on Saturday for Human of the Week, I’ll give you a hint – the person is part of this story!
See you then!