by LISA LOEB
My daughter, Elle, is a policewoman. I am a writer who struggles with issues involving guns, weapons and violence. Elle’s decision to pursue police work gathered steam during her college years and culminated with an internship in her final semester.
When I first learned of her desire, my feelings were mixed—curiosity and a wow factor—but one emotion overshadowed all. Fear. I calmly asked Elle questions. “Why do you want to do this type of work?”
She answered, “Somebody has to enforce the rules, and I think I can do a good job.” I asked, “Don’t you get scared?” She said matter-of-factly, “Yes, but I’m not going to let that stop me.”
I tried to hide my dismay. Many nights I tossed and turned and had nightmares involving police. My daughter has chosen to walk with fire like the Indian character in “Dances With Wolves.” She stands ready to “enforce the rules,” speaking her truth.
I needed to stand by my daughter, be patient and not be reactive. When I told friends who knew Elle, many exclaimed, “WHAT? The Elle who used to hide behind her mom is chasing bad guys?”
Elle was a spindly child with shy brown eyes and lacey, dark blond hair. In kindergarten she did not want to ride the school bus … too many unknowns. Elle did not do well with change and found it difficult to move to middle school.
In her last year of high school she began training in long distance running. She found new strengths to meet challenges and competed in a number of races in college. I have a photo of her leaping over an open fire, her young, strong body is caught as she flies, arms flung out—and she is laughing.
After college graduation, Elle applied to police training programs. She scouted government listings, filled out endless forms and waited. Finally, after nine months of worry, an elite federal government program selected her. Elle shouted her news, “See Mom, I told you I would get in!” I made all the right noises, declaring how proud I was—and I was. I turned my anxieties over to the higher power. I willed myself to be positive and unafraid like my daughter.
Elle was one of two women among 20 men in her training unit. On the phone I’d hear about timed dashes, marches and lots of pushups. The daily physical and mental challenges seemed not only exhausting but also emotionally draining.
One day I received a call from a federal agent doing a background check on Elle. Ah, I thought, a chance to voice my concerns: My daughter used to be afraid to answer the doorbell. My girl is precious. I have only one child. A female agent interrogated me: “Just the facts Ma’am.” I did my duty, as my daughter would have wanted. I reported her character as stellar, and I described how she had developed a serious sense of responsibility.
Elle’s training included full body contact, plenty of bruises and what I considered violence. Of the training, she explained it to me this way, “We’re part of a team; we go through tough stuff together!”
During week four Elle faced a training task she couldn’t physically complete. On a hot day she set out to do pull-ups on a metal bar, but slipped and fell to the ground landing on her back. She was checked at the hospital and endured three days of pain in her room.
Elle now drives a cruiser alone. She says back up is always available but the danger seems ever present.
On her return to training a gruff sergeant pulled Elle aside and told her because she missed three days she would have to leave the program. With tears in her eyes she asked what she could keep. “Just your boots,” she was told.
I wondered how hard she would fight back.
After six months of searching, a police department recruited Elle. Elle sailed through the five months of academic requirements, battled through the physical training and graduated.
Elle now drives a cruiser alone. She says back-up is always available but the danger seems ever present. Elle’s belt contains 40 pounds of equipment, and she wears a bulletproof vest under her dark blue uniform. She has bagged bodies, handcuffed innumerable suspects and driven suspects to jail.
On a visit during a cold day, I looked at my daughter and noticed the freckles sprinkled across her nose and her hair blowing in the winter air. A feeling of awe swept over me. As we walked, I reached for her hand and she let me hold it. I felt safe and happy. Love emanated between us, as warm as the glow of a fire.
Elle is a survivor … and so am I.
LISA LOEB is a mother and freelance writer from Pennsylvania.