People are always judging others. Most of us try to say we don't do it, but the fact is everyone does. Usually we're able to overcome our first judgement and treat everyone with respect, but not everyone can.
Still, even though we know we share the world with racists and bigots, you'd think that if a person saved someone's life, they'd be able to put aside their prejudice.
A police officer recently shared a letter he wrote to the woman who complained about him after he saved her life. Here's how it all started, according to the deputy.
The police officer was off-duty, driving back from the beach with his wife and two children when he came upon a car accident. It was an apparent head-on collision that left one of the vehicles flipped upside-down.
One of the vehicles had been safely evacuated, but another had a woman trapped inside. The cop wrote that he smelled gas and flames were visible under the hood.
"Not good," he wrote.
Coming back from the beach, the police officer wasn't wearing much in the way of a shirt. Just a tank top, but he knelt down amid the gas and broken glass to talk to the woman trapped inside.
"Listen - I've gotta get you the hell out of here," he allegedly said, but she refused, saying she wanted to wait for the firefighters.
He explained that he was a police officer and they were running out of time.
He removed her from the car, which didn't explode, the firefighters came and put out the blaze.
It should have been a happy ending, but one month later the police officer was called into his chief's office.
The woman had sent a letter to the police department that read:
"Perhaps if you didn't hire tattoo covered thugs, people like me could be a little more trusting of police officers. Obviously you have a bunch of poorly trained goons. That's why I ended up needing treatment for the cuts from the glass and the gravel that was pulled out of my skin. I'm also going to have to go to see someone regularly now, because I can't escape the fear of that monster looking in at me."
He was shocked. After saving a life you should be entitled to praise and gratitude, not recrimination. Especially over something as silly as tattoos.
The chief asked the deputy to write an apology letter, but he wrote something much better instead.
He shared his response on the Law Enforcement blog Law Enforcement Today.
To The Woman Who Wrote A Letter To My Chief Complaining About My Tattoos:
I’m sure you remember me. I was the off-duty officer who pulled you out of that burning car. You know, the car that was about to explode.
I’m the cop who you wrote the complaint about. My chief shared it with me.
Only now, several years later, can I laugh out loud about it. I actually have a copy of it. Sometimes, when I’m having a bad day, I read your words:
“Perhaps if you didn’t hire tattoo covered thugs, people like me could be a little more trusting of police officers,” you wrote. “Obviously you have a bunch of poorly trained goons. That’s why I ended up needing treatment for the cuts from the glass and the gravel that was pulled out of my skin. I’m also going to have to go to see someone regularly now, because I can’t escape the fear of that monster looking in at me.”
I thought you might want to know a little more about this monster.
While I was diving into that burning car with you, my wife was with my little kids in the car about 150 away. We could have driven past you. But we didn’t.
When I smelled that gasoline and saw those flames, I could have just waited for the fire department to arrive. But I didn’t.
In case you forgot, I saved your life. You’re welcome.
I also thought you should know about those tattoos. Perhaps it’ll help alleviate those nightmares of the “monster”. Or perhaps not.
I got my first tattoo at 18-years-old when I joined the Marines. It was my second big act of defiance. My mother didn’t want me to enlist and she hated tattoos.
My second and third tattoos were in memory of my two best friends I lost in service to our country. And by then, this “poorly trained goon” was addicted to ink. Because it was a pain that I could control. It was a pain that I wanted to… needed to…. feel. To forget. To never forget. I don’t know. All I know is it felt good. It felt forever, which was something I felt like I didn’t have.
The next tattoos came when my kids were born. And on either side of those I inked up with some reminders of the God who has blessed me and the archangel who I believe keeps me safe and helps me to keep others safe.
I’m so sorry about the cuts from the glass and the gravel. I know what that feels like. When I was in the Humvee during that IED blast overseas, I got a lot worse than that. I can relate. It sucks. But in the sandbox, I was the only guy left and I had to pull MYSELF out of that wreck.
Maybe you’re right. Maybe I am a monster. But I’m the monster that evil fears. I’m the monster that protects. And if tattoos are what make me a bad person… then I’ll take that as a compliment.
The Officer Who Saved You
He explained that his tattoos were a form of defiance at first, but became a way for him to remember his loved ones and forget his pain. As a former soldier he was hardly "poorly trained" or a "thug" and instead chose tattoos as a form of self-expression.
In his post he explained that he never sent the letter, choosing instead to obey the chief and continue to provide for his family.
It's too bad because it sounds like the woman needed to hear the words.