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The Bravest of All

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When I was a little girl, I had so many aspirations. In Dr. Seuss’s My Book About Me, my future careers included: cowgirl, ballerina, actress, and policewoman, among others. Obviously, I was a well-rounded child. 

Today, there would only be one of those vocations that I would consider, and it isn’t a cowgirl. Although I do look good in hats. With a fear of guns and somewhat of a peace activist at heart, it is doubtful that I could even hold a weapon correctly, let alone pull the trigger or apprehend a potential criminal.

Although I trained for years to dance professionally, my feet and my decrepit body no longer welcome the tutu. Acting is the only real possibility for me. Maybe this will be my final career change, and one day I will find my way to the “Great White Way”. Or not.

Girlie girl that I am, I don’t have the moxie to work in law enforcement, but if I did, the NYPD would be the ultimate. If only I were so brave.

Friday when I was stuck waiting in the airport for three hours, I sat next to a young girl who was obviously from the New York area. I had purchased a book in hopes of passing the time quickly, but the story seated next to me was far more interesting than the one in my hands.

Muriel appeared to be between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty-two. She finished graduate school and entered the police department in New York City. She went on to answer my questions honestly. She expressed the challenges of being a woman in law enforcement, particularly in Manhattan. I assumed that she must work in an office, or maybe in investigation. She doesn’t. As a patrol cop in Chelsea, her life is in danger on almost a daily basis.

In the short time that we sat together, we established some kind of connection. We talked about why we love New York, and would choose to live here more than any other city. Muriel went on to tell me stories from her experiences as a cop; things that I really did not want to hear, including incidents involving terrorism and gang violence. I have always had respect for those who protect and keep us safe, but now I have more.

Eventually, I asked the biggest question of all. “Aren’t you afraid?” Her reply was honest.

“Not in the moment. I can’t be. I have to do my job. But after the situation, I think about it and I cannot believe what just happened.” 

As I sat there looking at this small-town Jersey girl, I realized that she wasn’t that different from me. Perhaps she wanted to be a police officer when she was a little girl too, or maybe even a ballerina. Perhaps she loved Dr. Seuss, and enjoyed dreaming of multiple career possibilities at the age of 7 or 8. Just another single girl living in NYC, she wears make-up, and she likes to look pretty. 

I would never guess that she was risking her life every day, working for the NYPD. Like so many who I will never meet, she fights for what is right. She fights for my freedom, for all of us. How brave is all I can say. How brave.

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