News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mark Bennett Opinion

July 17, 2011

MARK BENNETT: Community outpouring represents collective sympathy for fallen officer

TERRE HAUTE — Every Terre Haute resident has probably been asked the same question.

“Why do you live there?”

Of course, there are reasons not to live here. Paychecks are bigger elsewhere, with median household incomes 30 percent lower than the state average, and 36 percent lower than the national norm. The child-poverty rate frequently ranks highest in Indiana. The nearest ocean is hundreds of miles away. Getting “railroaded” is a literal reality here, and not just a slang term for being forced to do something.

Yes, this community harbors flaws. Still, there are moments when the town exhibits a level of goodwill that overwhelms the thorns and ruts. Last week, Terre Haute showed why the majority of its 60,785 residents choose to stay and call this place home.

On Tuesday, hundreds of Hauteans and other concerned folks from around the Wabash Valley stood silently on both sides of Seventh Street as a hearse transported the body of a fallen police officer from Union Hospital to the Mattox-Ryan Funeral Home. The 34-year-old member of the Terre Haute Police Department’s K-9 and SWAT units died in the line of duty a day earlier. Officer Brent Long, his partner dog Shadow, and a police task force entered a North Eighth Street apartment Monday afternoon to serve a felony arrest warrant. The suspect, investigators say, opened fire, fatally injuring Long and wounding the dog. The 33-year-old suspect, Shaun M. Seeley, had a lengthy criminal past. Seeley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police say.

In larger cities, the shooting death of a law officer might be sadly commonplace. Here, thankfully, such a traumatic loss is more rare — the last similar incident involving a city police officer happened 27 years ago.

The townspeople shared in the heartache, mourning the loss of Long, a young, active, contributing member of their community. Even if local folks didn’t know Long as his family, friends and colleagues did, they felt shock and hurt. Long worked to keep the peace, and the senseless, violent taking of his life shattered the tranquility most of us take for granted. His wife lost her husband. His kids lost their dad.

As the procession passed Tuesday, one man standing at Seventh and Wabash Avenue said, “This sort of thing happens all the time in other places. But when it happens in your community, it hits home.”

And this is, indeed, “home” for thousands of us, for better or worse. Violent crime can, and does, happen here, obviously. Yet, it is not something people here accept. The lines of citizens standing alongside Seventh Street, some holding flags and others with a hand over their heart, represented a collective sense of agony, and of sympathy and backing for Long, his family and his comrades.

Seeing such an outpouring amass just one day after the shooting amazed John Plasse, the Terre Haute chief of police.

“Just to see that so early, it doesn’t take away the pain and hurt, but it means a lot to see the support,” Plasse said, “and I’m sure the guys and girls here [on the force] would tell you the same.”

The heartfelt sentiments continued and grew throughout the week, in advance of today’s visitation services in Hulman Center and Monday’s funeral at Mattox-Ryan.

Such a sustained reaction might not occur in a huge metropolis — one of those big cities that never sleep, that dazzle our eyes from afar and make us think the grass is clearly greener on their vast side of the fence. Here, in this small, Midwestern college town, where we argue about the color of city trash receptacles and unsanctioned tree trimming downtown, the lights don’t sparkle quite so brightly. What does shine, in little Terre Haute, Indiana, is our ability to unify as neighbors in times of trouble.

For many of us, that’s why we live here.

Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or mark.bennett@tribstar.com.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Mark Bennett Opinion
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Airstrike Shatters Fragile Calm in Gaza Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Mother of 2 Makes NFL Cheerleading Squad at 40 The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Trial Begins Over OKC Bombing Video Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Violent Clashes Between Libyan Militias Today in History for July 28th Thousands at Peace Rally in Tel Aviv Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma
NDN Video
'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity