That smell, what is that smell? If I could just turn over, the pain is too sharp. I can’t even open my eyes. What’s going on here? My mind is an explosion of fragmented specks of reality laced with slow motion bits of, what…fantasies, or is it real?
How well I remember those thoughts. It was a normal summer night of run of the mill calls. Drunks stumbling down the boardwalk, kids shouting profanities from the balconies of their motel rooms, and the smell of French fries and beer wafting through the humid night.
The complacency of the moment was interrupted by my police radio crackling from my police jeep. A call came in to check out a bonfire on the beach off 68th street. This was an area that is seldom frequented because it is off the beaten path. A young couple out for a little romantic stroll came upon a bonfire with an unruly group shoving some guy around. They immediately went to a phone and called it in.
I jumped into my jeep and put it into four-wheel drive. The fastest access to this stretch of beach was via the low tide highway, as we called it. The waves lapped at the wheels and the water spray covered my windshield with its salty brine, prompting me to turn on the windshield wipers.
From a distance, I saw the bonfire and turned off my lights, driving by the bright moonlight. Soon I arrived at a large gathering of beer guzzling college kids who had a young man surrounded. They were taunting him and pouring beer over his head and shoving him from one to the other. The kids seemed to be in frenzy and hardly noticed me.
I jumped from my jeep and grabbed the first punk I came to shoving him to the sand. As I turned to grab another the lights went out. Someone hit me with a piece of firewood and I went down flat on my face. Blood filled my ears and ran down into my mouth. The crowd started chanting, kill him…kill the pig.
My mind flashed back to the day I took my oath as a police officer. I knew I was born to serve my fellow man. That’s why I became a cop as soon as I turned 21. But now, I could taste death at any moment. Those I felt led to serve were about to take my life.
Again, that smell! My mind began to clear enough that I could open my eyes. I could see red lights in the distance. I rolled over on my back and saw the kids running in all directions. The young man they were taunting was lying just a few feet away from me unconscious. That smell was coming from him. It was the smell of kerosene. The demented youth had doused this poor man with the kerosene they had used to start the bonfire and they had intended to set him on fire before I came along.
The lights stopped beside me and my shift sergeant came to my aid. After talking with the couple that reported the offense, he took a jeep from our 19th street headquarters and came to back me up.
We were never able to identify any of the perpetrators, so no one ever came to trial for this heinous crime. No one goes free from this kind of inhumanity. There will be a day when all is revealed and all will stand before He who judges all things.
I really believe that the victim and I would have been murdered if my Sergeant hadn’t felt compelled to check on me. As it was, we both recovered fine.
That was over 30 years ago. I now serve someone who was also born to serve. He is Christ Jesus. He too was beaten and despised by those He chose to serve. He died for doing what He was called to do.
I almost perished at the hands of those thugs. When I signed on as a police officer, I knew there was a possibility my life could be required of me in the line of duty. Christ knew He would lose His life, yet He gave His life willingly so that we could receive atonement for our sins and have everlasting life. How great a love!
Policemen, firemen, soldiers…public servants, all the same. Thank God for those who are born to serve. To God be the glory.