A month after Kerrie died, I wrote a letter to baby Olivia. I wanted her to know how much she had meant to me. I’m sharing it here and now because many of us from OPD want to go to DC to honor Kerrie as an Officer. I want to go to DC to honor Kerrie as the amazing friend and day-to-day hero that she was.
It’s taken me awhile to write this letter to you. The words just never seemed to come. Usually I know what to say to someone who is grieving but to you…when I try to form the right words, I just find an emptiness in my core. Your mother was a good friend. She lived a short life but she lived more than most of us will in 80 or 90 years. She loved more than most of us can even imagine.
When I think of her, that emptiness takes over again. I feel like nothing I say to you will ever fully explain her goodness. I suppose ‘good’ is the only word I can find that really describes her. Your mother believed in the goodness of others and in the goodness of the world. She met someone and saw the potential for goodness inside them. I know she saw it in me much more than I see it in myself.
In our line of work, we mostly have contact with people when they are at the lowest moments of their lives. And sometimes those horrible moments can rub off on us. Those moments in other people’s lives begin to affect our own lives. Those moments can eat away at you at night. But that is part of the life officers choose. We choose to meet people at their worst and to absorb those moments. We know they will affect us in some way or another. They can make us hard, uncaring and sometimes they even make us complain and criticize those around us.
Your mother was the only officer I have ever met who never let those moments bother her. She would smile and she would laugh. She would say “dang it!” and the bad moment would pass. People responded to her goodness as if they could sense that goodness inside of her.
If you lived in our world, the world of officers, you would know how truly remarkable that was. I wish I had told her that. For months leading up to her death I found myself becoming more and more in awe of your mother. She would write me little notes on my desk and leave them to brighten up my day. And they would! Just little notes of nothing that made me smile. She did it just because she wanted to share her ‘good’ with me.
When you were born, I went to visit you and your mom. I brought gifts from a group of us officer Mommies who wanted to make sure she had everything she needed for your long stay at the hospital. She was so excited to show me your little room. She joked that all the pictures were of you and your Daddy, and that maybe the nurses liked him more than her. She doted over your “big feet”, which were so, so tiny and told me every updated statistic on your growth. She had everything memorized and could recite all your latest numbers from heart. I would have made the trip for any of my friends who but your mom wrote me the sweetest thank you note afterward, one that was so detailed and so appreciative for the little things that I did not think much of. She delivered that note after my son was born a few months later. She brought homemade treats for my little family and I introduced her to my new son.
We talked about how much she loved her temporary position with the Fugitive Unit and how she wanted to make it permanent so she could spend more time with her family, and with you. We talked about how much she loved the job and how excited she was to bring you home in a few days. She showed me the latest pictures of you on her phone. And then she left. It was just a short visit but one that I wish I had savored more.
I remember opening her thank you card that night and smiling at how sweet it was. She was so thankful that we were friends. She died a few days later. She died with those homemade treats still sitting on my counter. The days after she was killed, I thought about you every single moment of the day. My daughter ate those homemade snacks your mom made and said, “Kerrie! I love her!” I cried and cried for you. I promised your mother I would be there for you and your Daddy. So many of us from your police family also swore to protect you and your entire family.
I hope that by the time you read this, you still know my name. I hope that I have kept my promise to your mother. I hope that when you see an Omaha Police Officer you know that you are our family and that we love you. I hope that when you are old enough to see the videos of her funeral, you will understand that on the day your Mommy was buried, the entire city was silent. Thousands upon thousands of people lined the procession route, waving flags, hugging and crying. And they did it in complete silence. I have never, and hope to never, see anything like it again. During a time in American history where so many people in our society are anti-police, your mother changed the game. Her story touched people all over the world. Her goodness resonated with millions. Her picture was everywhere. On billboards, in magazines, newspapers and tv. Her name was “trending” on social media. #KerrieOn echoed everywhere. Strangers felt as though they knew her by the stories we shared. People just called her “Kerrie.” No further identification was needed. We all shared her loss. Collectively we mourned the loss of someone so good. But no one has felt the loss like your father. Your Daddy has been stronger than anyone should ever have to be. And he is doing it all for you, your sister and your brother.
In the time that has passed since your Mommy was taken, I have heard your Daddy say so many profound things. But one of the moments I will never forget was when he described how much your Mommy and Daddy “loved each other” in the five years they were together. He said that they had loved “a lifetime” in a short amount of time. They packed so much love into those short years that he was so grateful to have had them.
I pray that one day you find someone who loves you as much as your Daddy loved your Mommy. I have a feeling your Daddy will make sure that person is worthy of your love too.
Your Blue Family is always here for you, baby girl. God Bless and Kerrie On.
Officer Jessica Swanson