A few random thoughts and reflections on two weeks of tragedy in our communities:
• Superlatives such as “overwhelming” and “amazing” are used far too frequently....but they certainly applied to the response of our communities to the Dec. 26 killing of Newman Police Corporal Ronil Singh.
Our offices were a central location for some of the activities, and reflected the outpouring of support for Ronil’s family and the law enforcement community.
Need bows? Got bows. A group of volunteers crafted hundreds if not more than 1,000 bows while working in our upstairs conference rooms. Others worked elsewhere....including a group of basketball fans who made bows in the stands as they watched Orestimba’s Lady Warriors play last Wednesday evening.
Who was going to put up all those bows? Well over two dozen people responded to a call for volunteers to do just that Thursday morning, and by end of the day one would be hard-pressed to find a light pole or tree along Main Street or Highway 33 (all the way to Crows Landing) which was not adorned with a blue bow or other sign of support.
When hand-held “Thin Blue Line” flags arrived Thursday, we were surprised to find that each of the 1,000 flags had to be attached to a plastic staff. No problem. Volunteers had that task accomplished in no time - and those flags flew out the door.
Same with the larger flags that were ordered with the idea in mind that merchants along the procession route bringing our fallen officer into town for a viewing on Friday may want to display them. Those 90 flags were snapped up in no time at all, with some merchants ordering several to show their support.
Organizers could probably have sold 200 flags and easily handed out 2,000 of the hand-held versions.
• The viewing held Friday at West Side Theatre was truly a tribute, and the honor guard procession and traditions surrounding that event were packed with emotion.
The previous nine days had been an endless series of gut-wrenching and heart-breaking moments.....but to me nothing hit home like seeing Corporal Singh’s flag-draped casket being carried into the theatre by an honor guard, followed by his grieving family, as his fellow officers saluted their fallen comrade.
After Corporal Singh’s casket had been taken into the theatre, the crowd of hundreds outside stood in absolute, total silence. I have never seen such a large a crowd so completely, utterly silent.
The theatre was beautifully prepared to honor to a community’s fallen hero. The city took the lead in that endeavor, with the support of numerous volunteers. The theatre was literally transformed into a memorial, one which celebrated Ronil Singh’s life as well as mourning his death.
• We extend our appreciation to each of the allied agencies which supported Newman through this tragic chapter in its history....they are truly too many to mention, but among those at the forefront were the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and Modesto Police Department, with help from countless others.
Sheriff’s detectives were relentless in their pursuit of the alleged killer. Without their efforts, and the help of allied agencies, that individual would most likely have slipped away. That those those suspected of deliberately aiding the suspect’s efforts to escape capture are being held accountable is also justice being served.
The sheriff’s department (and Oakdale on the night of the tragedy) also covered our streets, allowing Newman officers to stand down and grieve.
A funeral planning team which we’re told involved every agency in the county and some from beyond handled all the memorial details, provided support to the family and local department and did so much more.
Sadly, they have been through this before.
We could not have gotten through all this without their help and support.
We are grateful to each and every agency involved, from those who were directly involved to the many who traveled long distances - in some cases across the nation - to pay their respects.
• One of the most difficult aspects of this tragedy has been seeing people we know and care about hurting so deeply.
Much focus has been on the family and on Ronil Singh’s law enforcement comrades, as should be the case.
But let us not forget that the grief extends to many beyond those immediate circles.....the non-sworn police personnel who make the department tick, the ranks of employees from other city departments, firefighters, ambulance personnel.....those from public safety ranks of Gustine as well as Newman....they, too, all knew, worked with and loved Corporal Singh.
These are small, close-knit groups with the tight bonds common among those who are dedicated to public safety and service.
And they, too, are hurting.
• The leadership shown by Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson was remarkable....under the most difficult of circumstances, he rose to the occasion - and was unafraid to show the human side of this tragedy in the process.
Leading this department forward may well prove to be biggest challenge of his career. He has good people, a good department from top to bottom, but they are being tested as never before. From this horrible crucible of tragedy, my hope is they emerge even stronger.....but there is a long journey ahead.
• When I speak of “our community,” by the way, I am referring to the entire West Side.
• Nobody went to bed Christmas night with any idea of what a tragic chapter was in store....the 10 days that followed, from the murder of Corporal Ronil Singh in the early morning hours of Dec. 26 to his services last weekend, shook our community to its core.
Yes, we are resilient. Yes, the response of our community was indeed inspirational. Yes, we will persevere.
With heavy hearts, we now look to the future.....with a prayer that we never again suffer such a tragedy.