White Gloves. Polished Buttons. Broad Necks and Bagpipes

The East Bay braces for another police funeral.


We've lost another man.

I use the inclusive "we" here because, frankly, society can use all the good men it can find right now.

By all accounts Kenyon Youngstrom was a good man. And soon it will be time for his colleagues and family to get together and celebrate his life -- taken by a random, armed motorist we are just now beginning to find out about, and whose motives we probably will never be able to fully understand.

Police funerals are extremely emotional affairs, almost pageant-like displays of traditional symbols and rituals with deep meaning for those who strap on 40 pounds of belt and armor every day to ride out the ceaseless calls for help crackling from their radios.

I've covered more than a dozen funerals over the years, been invited to half a dozen more. They are somber affairs, marked by American flags and "missing man" flyovers, sunburned necks under uniform collars and endless, streaming tears. They leave a mark.

It's hard not to respect the sense of connection police officers have with one another, and which is exhibited at times like these. Theirs is a connection forged from endless hours spent approaching furtive drivers and searching musty, darkened buildings -- their lives in the hands of the man or woman behind them, and the promise that that person will come to their aid no matter the peril.

We saw evidence of that connection again this week as the call for help went out from the side of I-680, an officer down and wounded, his partner in a fight for his life with an armed motorist who opened fire without warning. We saw it again Wednesday night when Youngstrom's commander announced his death, and men and women in blue or brown turned away and returned to their cars, a few of them toggling their sirens in brief tribute to his passing while a CHP helicopter circled overhead.

Soon, it will be time for the more elaborate parade and processions, color guards, black mourning bands across the face of silver badges, a lone piper playing "Amazing Grace." It's time to stop, to pause and reflect... no matter how you feel about the police or the job they do.

Because a good man has been lost.

Ian Lipnicky (still a SportsFan) September 07, 2012 at 03:57 PM
"They are somber affairs, marked by American flags and "missing man" flyovers, sunburned necks under uniform collars and endless, streaming tears. They leave a mark." Exactly right. I hope and pray that the Westboro loonies don't decide to make this funeral one of the pit stops on their road to depravity.
Chris Nicholson September 07, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Beautiful and touching story, J.D. Senseless violence like this shakes your faith in the fairness of the universe. Many (most?) murders are "loser-on-loser" incidents, but the random death of an innocent-- especially an officer-- somehow seems so much more horrific/tragic. I don't know what it means, but I find it curious that the intensity of our collective reaction seems inversely correlated with our realistic ability to impact future incidents.


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