Friday morning I felt witness to an amazing event. In the wake of the sick-making, heart-breaking riots here in our city of Vancouver after the final Stanley Cup hockey game, grateful citizens gathered in an impromptu fashion to give their thanks to the police officers – the men and women who, in a tremendously difficult and dangerous situation, had done their best that night to protect and serve.
While running an errand this morning, I happened to be around the corner from the Vancouver Police Department headquarters at 2nd and Cambie.
As I checked emails on my iPhone, I read one from a friend telling me about what she had heard on the news – that a growing tribute had spontaneously sprung up in front of the VPD – in a most unusual way.
I was glad to hear that we Vancouverites were letting our police force know how much we appreciated their hard work on Wednesday night and, being so close by, I went over to see what was happening.
I was greeted by the most extraordinary sight – a Vancouver police car, the same as the ones that were set ablaze two nights ago – completely decked out with stickie notes of all shapes, sizes, and colours. Each stickie had a handwritten message from grateful citizens – thanking them, encouraging them, validating them for their courage – in the most heartfelt of ways. I quickly wrote my simple message and stuck it on the car where I could find a space: “Please don’t take on the shame of that night, it isn’t yours. Thank you for all you did, and for all you do.”
I then noticed a man dressed in shorts and a t-shirt standing at the rear of the car. He looked a bit dazed and I wondered if he was okay. The Global TV reporter standing nearby told me that he was one of the officers who had been downtown that night – and I knew I wanted to say something to him. I repeated to him what I’d written on my stickie about not taking on anyone else’s shame – and his response almost made me cry when he very quietly said: “That’s such a hard thing to remember.”
We talked a bit more and then he took both of my hands in his and said, “Thank you so much – all of this means more to us than you could know.”
The truth is that nobody’s perfect. Not you – not I – not even our police officers. They make mistakes sometimes, big and small. But, in general, I think they do their very best to protect us and to keep Vancouver the relatively safe big city it is — and I appreciate that.
And on Wednesday night, they worked very hard to show that to us – the hundreds of brave women and men in the Vancouver police force.
I was so happy I had stopped by and given just a few minutes of my time, to have the opportunity to give my thanks for a job well done to an officer who is used to criticism and had just come off a night of hell — where, as the media reports are telling us, cops were being physically attacked, injured, and were being called every kind of inciting name we can only imagine — and, because in many cases they couldn’t tell the thugs from the bystanders, they just kept repeating the same mantra hundreds of times to the countless drunks, hooligans and yahoos on our downtown streets: “Just Go Home.”
I’m so glad we are taking the time to give our collective thanks to the women and the men of the Vancouver Police Department.
Because along with the good folks of Vancouver who took brushes, mops, and broom to clean up someone else’s mess the next morning, we have reason to give gratitude to those officers — and to the prevailing good spirit that is the heart of this beautiful city — my home.
That is what the real Vancouver is made of.