In the days before telephones or electricity were invented and later when they were a mere luxury, the fire departments developed a means of communication within the community.
If there was a fire or other emergency the bell at the fire house or local the church was sounded. This bell not only summoned the off duty and volunteer firemen but also all available law officers and any community members who wanted to lend a hand.
The bell signal the community never wanted to hear was three rings, followed by a pause, then three more rings, another pause, then three final rings.
This signaled the loss of life of a fireman or volunteer. The loss of a family member, a husband, a father, a son, brother, one who committed their life to protect and serve their community.
Shortly after midnight Saturday morning, Waxahachie Police Officer Josh Williams’ responded to his final call for his night shift, for his life.
On Saturday, the fireman joined their police comrades by flying the American flag at their respective stations at half mast.
At the incident site on U.S. Highway 77 North, the bright orange paint markings describing the horrific and violent crash that took the life of Officer Williams life were indelible on the pavement. By late that afternoon they markings remained as bright as they were when accident investigators put them down.
While I was traveling up that stretch of highway on my way home, I expected to see many onlookers. Surely the news was out. Knowing I worked with the Daily Light, I was asked by several people at the Farmers Market who the officer was. I only knew there was a fatality incident involving a Waxahachie officer at the time.
But it was business as normal for an early Saturday afternoon on Waxahachie’s main thoroughfare. All that was left were the bright orange crime scene markings and notations. All except one lone Waxahachie patrol car that pulled up into the turn lane median and turned his flashers on for a few moments, then after the brief pause, he returned to the flow of traffic.
He then pulled into the parking lot on up the road close to one of the many fast food restaurants. I wanted to pull in and ask him the obvious, “I saw you stop across the street from where the incident happened, I’m so sorry for your loss. How will you miss Officer Williams.”
But as I saw him sitting in the solitude of his car, looking across the parking lot, I decided to leave him in his solice to reflect, to remember Officer Williams and to work through this tragic and needless loss.
The actions of the driver that ended the life of Officer Williams will no doubt be investigated with no detail being missed; and as it should. Hopefully this investigation will provide some tool to prevent a future loss.
The bottom line is a wife and three children were met at their home early in the morning hours by a fellow officers making the type of call they dread the most — having to telling a wife that her husband was killed in the line of duty; to tell a child their daddy will not be coming home any more.
Having a law enforcement officer in the family and having several friends in various agencies, I hear their stories. Some are funny, some show concerns for those accused and their victims; some show how sometimes humanity has little or no regard for the life or well being of others. I hear their concerns. When one of their own falls, many say “That could have been me.”
I will never forget the words of an instructor at a certification class I took several years ago. “This badge, this firearm, your squad car, may get you respect from many, but it will make you a bigger target for others.”
A wife of a high school classmate who became a county sheriff deputy and later went on the join the Texas Department of Public Safety, once said, “As he leaves for work, every time I pray, Lord please bring him back home to me and his family.” When he comes home, always say, “Thank you Lord.”
For 17 years it was told by many, Officer Williams was faithful to his family, to his profession, to the community that he took an oath to protect and serve. The morning of Saturday, July 28, that all changed forever.
Officer Williams was responding to a disturbance call when his vehicle was slammed by an SUV traveling at a high rate of speed without headlights. Test results indicate the driver was over the legal limit for alcohol at the time of the crash.
Will the caller have regrets reporting the disturbance, I sincerely hope not. Will those involved in the disturbance feel they have some responsibility? I hope and pray they feel they should act responsibly and have more human respect for others.
As for the driver of the other vehicle, I pray he understands how he changed the lives of so many forever. I pray the actions from the choices he made that night will be an example to others what not to do. I also pray that those who may have been with him that fateful night will also make right choices as to what to do.
Officer Williams, your assignment to the Waxahachie Police Department, those in Ellis County and those in the community you served is complete. You will be missed but you now have been called by a higher command to join the ranks of law officers and firemen who also given the ultimate sacrifice to protect and serve.
The black bands covering the stars on your fellow officer’s badges are only temporary. Their bands will go away and their stars will shine again — as yours will. Only yours will be in the heavens above keeping a vigil over them by day and by night.
Officer Josh Williams, you have a new assignment — may your soul rest in peace along with those who have preceded you.
Mike Sackett is a resident of Red Oak and a frequent contributor to the Daily Light.