By Peter Heck
But there’s one image that will never leave my mind and I wish would embed itself in every other American’s conscience as well.
While the graphic video and still frames of bodies literally flying through the air after being struck by a car driven by a domestic terrorist will likely become the most iconic since we tend to gravitate towards the sensational, I wish they wouldn’t be.
Because there was another image that is far more powerful, far more moving, far more inspiring, far more uniting, far more empowering, far more encouraging — and we all need that right now.
The image, snapped by an unknown photographer at a white supremacist rally staged in the same city of Charlottesville nearly a month ago, shows a black police officer, fully armed, standing with his arms crossed in front a police line. Behind him stand some of the most contemptible souls imaginable. Flying Nazi flags, confederate flags, giving Hitler salutes, and carrying out tributes to the Ku Klux Klan, the same hate-filled cretins who turned the streets of Charlottesville into a killing field this last weekend are demonstrating their contempt for non-white people everywhere. And they are being protected by this selfless, courageous, dark-skinned public servant.
The officer has been identified as “Officer Nash” of the Charlottesville Police Department, and there is little doubt that as the mayhem unfolded on his streets just two days ago, he was there, protecting and defending. Because that’s what he does. It’s what our police do.
For the last several years we have seen American police officers — those who stand as the thin blue line separating us citizens from disorder, chaos, and violence — mocked, criticized, and defamed as corrupt and untrustworthy. We’ve watched as those occupying the highest offices in the land have fueled an anti-police sentiment, fanning the flames of contempt towards law enforcement by their imprudent and pandering rhetoric. It’s been disgraceful, and to the degree that it has skewed our public’s confidence in the integrity of those who wear the badge, it’s been unforgivable.
The next time you are tempted to question the restraint and character of our police, remember this picture of Officer Nash. Remember him standing stoic in the face of hateful souls, stalwart in his commitment to protect even them.
Sadly, whenever most of us hear “9/11,” our mind’s eye thinks first of United 175 exploding into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. We think of the horror before we think of the images of firemen charging up smoke-filled stairs, sleepless rescuers hoisting the tattered American flag above the rubble, or the traffic jams of volunteers flooding the interstates to come to New York and Washington to offer their blood and toil to help. I’ve always been bothered by the fact that is precisely how Osama bin Laden would have wanted it.
For that reason, I am vowing not to give the terrorists and supremacists who brought carnage to Charlottesville the same victory. They want me to picture the car; I will remember Officer Nash.