National Law Enforcement Museum and Memorial:
(October 7, 2019)
This day was spent in downtown DC. Our first stop was the National Law Enforcement Museum on 444 E Street NW, directly across from the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial (dedicated October 15, 1991). This 55,000 sq/ft museum, which is 60ft below ground, is chock full of interactive exhibits and some amazing historical and contemporary law enforcement artifacts. In this museum, you can try your hand at forensics, undercover operations, or even test your “judgement” in the Decision Making Training Simulator that includes “shoot-don’t-shoot” scenarios in a virtual reality setting. I considered “dusting” off my skill set and trying out the simulator, but then thought better of it, as there is no use in “awakening” what I would call “safely stored” memories, as PTSD is a royal bitch. In this museum, they have the ACTUAL U.S. National Park Police helicopter (and media footage of the rescue) used to rescue survivors from the 1982 Air Florida flight 90 plane crash into the Potomac River. In additon to that display, there are plenty of immersive, experiential and interactive, as well as visual, audio and tactile exhibits to puruse and immerse yourself in the “day in the life” of a law enforcement officer.
As the “day-in-the-life” of a law enforcement officer is not without peril, or ultimate sacrifice, you will find the sobering Hall of Rememberance, wherein officer’s portraits arranged by state, with their name/agency and their End of Watch date are displayed, that were recently added in the spring of that year to the walls of the memorial, across the street. Sadly, NYPD, as of late, has the most officers added annually as a result of illness(es) sustained during 9/11. Artifacts and personal mementos left at the National Memorial can also be found on display, that will make your heart ache and your eyes tear.
And with all museums, there is a gift shop wherein you can purchase Memorial Fund gifts and/or additional souviners. I picked up a memorial coin that I now use for coin tosses, in water polo games I officiate. (one side = heads, the other = tails, or visa versa)
The National Law Enforcement Museum is open daily (except on Tuesdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 10 am to 6 pm. Children under 12 are free, however there is an entrance fee anywhere from $17 – $22 depending on your age and whether you are active duty (LE) or military. If you purchase tickets online, you can save $2/ticket. The fee is worth the price of admittance and helps to maintain and create new exhibits. While this October day saw pretty sparse visitation to this relatively new museum (opened October 13, 2018), every May, in the week that contains May 15th this place (according to the retired LE docent) and more specifically, the National Law Enforement Officer Memorial, across the street from the museum, is crawling with law enforcement officers and “Survivor” families from across the country.
While most everyone is aware of and/or familar with Memorial Day for our military, most people have no clue that May 15th marks National Police Officer Memorial Day, and has since 1962. Following a joint resolution from the 87th Congress, President John F. Kennedy signed into law (October 1, 1962) the designation of May 15th as National Police Officer Memorial Day, and the week that contains the 15th, designated as, National Police Week. Every year in May, families of the past year(s) fallen peace officers, and tens of thousands of uniformed active duty and retired peace officers from around the country make a pilgrimage of sorts to DC, to honor those who’s lives were cut short in the service of their community, and frankly our nation. While I have been to more than my fair share of Law Enforcement Officer funerals and memorials, I have not been to DC during Police Week. Frankly, it is on my “bucket list”, if only to pay homage and honor those officers (and their families) who were not as lucky as Paul and I, and make it to retirement, alive and fairly healthy.
We did however look up names (and their location of the walls) of officers who we knew that have their names permanently engraved into one of the two 304 foot long, curving blue-gray marble walls that bracket the “Pathways of Rememberance”.
To date, there are 21,910 Federal, State and Local Law Enforement Officer names etched in stone, and at the close of 2019 over 22,000 officers dating as far back as 1786, will have given the ultimate sacrifice and died in the Line of Duty.
“You see the good don’t die young, but instead they live on,
In memories, and many a heart.
The good that you do does not die when you do.
For the good, death’s not an end, but a start.”
– Lt. Dan Marcou
*(Last stanza of a 7 part poem – “Messages from a Fallen Officer”)