Police officers put their lives on the line every day. Sometimes the bad guys defeated them, and they lost their lives. The funeral of a policeman who died, particularly in the line of duty, often attracted many law enforcement officers from nearby communities as they paid tribute to their fallen comrade.
The policeman who recently lost his life had found it some years previously. He was a Jew who had come to faith in Jesus Christ. The Messianic Jewish congregation he attended was small, not really equipped to handle the overflow of men and women from the local and neighboring police forces that came to pay their last respects.
Although James didn’t know the slain officer, he had heard about his final battle and respected him. James showed up at the modern, one-story church building late because of visiting Janna at the hospital. He saw he wouldn’t be able to get inside for a while. The line of officers waiting to say goodbye snaked out the door and down the sidewalk. He resolved to wait in his car until the line dwindled somewhat. It was a good thing he did.
The heat was relentless. It hadn’t rained for months. The humidity wouldn’t leave. James found it amusing that Washington elites no longer hesitated to use the term “global warming” once again versus the previously preferred “climate change” when temperatures weren’t so steamy. The foolishness of labeling weather as climate continued unabated.
James parked down the street with a view of the church and the mixed crowd of police and civilians, presumably members of the congregation and other friends. A man with a swarthy complexion walked past him toward the church. For such a hot day, he wore a heavy jacket that was out of place.
As the man passed James, a strange sensation seized his gut. It spoke of danger. With heightened concern, James watched the man approach the crowd. The need to cry out in warning drove him to action. He struggled to unfasten his seatbelt and reached for the door handle. The man pushed his way through the uniformed mass to the outraged cry of several. He paid no heed.
James emerged from the car and took two running steps toward the church. He was about to yell an alert when he heard a faint echo rise. “Allahu Akbar!”
He shouted, “No!” and was lifted off his feet as a horrendous blast erupted from inside the church and moved outward with the force of a tidal wave. The explosion threw James across the street.
His ears rang with deafness. A kaleidoscope of red, black, yellow, and gray overwhelmed him, but he couldn’t hear a thing outside his head. Smoke and fire poured from the building.
Entangled in a rosebush, he pushed away as sharp thorns caught him. They jabbed his bare arms, drawing pinpricks of blood. He brought his hand to his forehead. The blast had knocked off his glasses. He found them in the rosebush and settled them on his nose. That action brought a sense of normalcy, and he realized the thorny insult of the rosebush was nothing. His eyes stung, and with another swipe of his hand recoiled at the stickiness of blood. Feeling around he found a gash on his head bleeding copiously. But his injury, compared to the mayhem around him, was trivial.
Bodies lay everywhere. Mangled blue uniforms lay scattered like bowling pins. The church itself had half its front wall and part of the roof blown away. Flames licked at anything flammable. Many human torches writhed on the ground. Hearing came back to James like the snap of one’s fingers.
From a distance sirens howled. In minutes, multiple fire engines and ambulances arrived. James staggered closer and saw the mangled bodies missing limbs, faces half torn away, blood everywhere. He couldn’t comprehend the carnage.
He tried to pull himself together. He needed to. That was his job. James was one who could provide emotional support now and later. As awful as it was for him to see the slaughter, the psychological damage to those still alive and to the families would be much worse. He raised his eyes to the heavens and implored God to provide him the strength to give of His comfort.
Toward evening, the effort of coming alongside people throughout that day had exhausted James. They needed to talk, to cry, to lament, to express their anger, even their hatred for the perpetrator. He tried simply to be there for them. Few words could bring reassurance in a time like this, and he spoke little. The need was to hold a hand, hug someone, or just sit next to a grieving, questioning person, being a physical presence.
Word had spread about what the attacker screamed in his last moments. Every person there knew he had acted in the name of Islam, the so-called religion of peace. Not so shockingly, as had been their practice for many years, the media reported that the motive of the bomber was unclear. City officials joined the club and disavowed any Islamic involvement. It was a maddening repeat of the willful blindness that had so often been the official response.
The problem contradicting this ludicrous obtuseness was the rash of similar attacks throughout the nation the same day. Shopping malls, police departments, Jewish centers, and churches had all been targeted on this celebratory day of Islam’s greatest victory against the U.S. A proud pronouncement came forth from a group claiming to be affiliated with the Islamic State terrorists that had run roughshod over the Middle East. It warned they would soon destroy the United States and Israel. Their official announcement stated they had accomplished three objectives in this attack. The first was to destroy Jews, the second to annihilate Christians, and the third to decimate the law enforcement structure in the U.S. That many capitalistic business enterprises had also been devastated in a number of the attacks was an added bonus.