As a photographer, my job is to capture the beauty of life. I try to put myself fully into each experience or event that I am a part of and create images that allow those who see them to feel like they could walk right into the scene. August 12, 2017 was no different in that regard, but that day was unlike anything I had been asked to be a part of. I was one of two photographers chosen to document the memorial and funeral of fallen Clinton, Missouri Police Officer Gary Michael. This request was far removed from my own experiences. I do not have any law enforcement professionals in my family and had not experienced this sort of loss so I wasn't fully prepared for how these two emotion-filled days would change my life.
As Luke Bryan's "Drink a Beer" played over and over hundreds of people lined the streets holding the American flag while law enforcement drove to the convention center for the service. Thousands of police officers, firefighters, and medical technicians came from all over the country to honor their beloved brother in blue. Men and women dressed in uniform stood in line for over an hour in the heat to show the family and the city of Clinton how much he will be missed. It was breathtaking and beautiful to see how connected everyone was, even if they didn't know each other. At the same time, it was gut-wrenching to see these strong men and women with tear-filled eyes as the dispatcher made the last call for Officer Michael.
I will be forever grateful for my safety and freedom now that I’ve been exposed to the sort of honorable sacrifice that I was previously blind to. Men and women leave their homes each day and night to keep the rest of the world safe and sound.
Rest in Peace Officer Michael, you are greatly missed.