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P1 First Person: My Turning Point

The essay below was among the finalists in a recently completed contest held at CopsOnline. Launched in 1996 as the original web site for real cops, by real cops and now a part of the PoliceOne Network, the new CopsOnline offers an expanded selection of interactive online features like videos, blogs, forums, pictures, and friend lists. We’ll be posting other top vote-getters in this essay contest in upcoming weeks – check the PoliceOne website on alternating Thursdays for the next couple of months for those.

Read the other finalists in the CopsOnline Essay Contest and get involved in the community

By Tony Luketic

“Daddy, can you put a ribbon in my hair?” A simple request made by my then four-year-old daughter. Little did she know that request would be one of the most traumatic and emotionally draining days of my life. Three months before this day, I was shot twice and was still in a wheel chair.

November 30, 1995 would be a day that changed not only my life but that of my entire family. I was doing some personal banking with my mother when my worst fear was realized. While standing in the teller line an armed individual decided he was going to rob the bank and I was unarmed. During the robbery he attempted to kill a bank teller who was too frightened to get the money from the drawer. I intervened and suffered two gunshot wounds and serious injuries to my body. My injuries left me in a wheelchair for several months, no use of my left hand, and deeply depressed. I then believed that was the turning point of my life, but in reality, it was minor compared to my daughter’s request three months later.

I was sitting in my chair when Bethany asked me, “Daddy can you put a ribbon in my hair?” After trying for about five minutes, which seemed like an eternity, I told her I couldn’t do it and to go see her grandmother to do it for her. She looked at me with those brown eyes, and then asked why I was crying. With the child innocence that can never be replaced she said she would take care of me and off she went to see her grandmother for her ribbon.

Two bullets from a gunman had taken away my identity, confidence, and zest for life. I was in the prime of my life, being a police officer is all I ever wanted to be, and he took that away from me. That lone gunman shattered my belief that I was invincible. I sat in my chair and cried. I was angry, depressed, and feeling sorry for myself. Then I became serious about recovering from my injuries.

“Daddy can you put a ribbon in my hair?”

I kept hearing that over and over and became very angry. My daughter needed me and so did my family. Until that point I was not serious about doing physical therapy. I was only going through the motions. From that day, I worked relentlessly doing physical therapy. I wasn’t going to let a crack-addicted bank robber take away my career, my self esteem, and my family.

I worked harder than I ever did my life and a year (and several surgeries) after I was shot, I returned to the police department as a patrolman. Currently, I am working as a parole officer and am assigned to the fugitive unit. I will never be able to thank my colleagues, doctors, friends, and family for the support that they have given me. I learned many lessons that day that I share with officers so that they don’t make the same mistakes I did.

November 30, 1995 was a turning point in my life. However, the real turning point was three months later when my daughter asked “Daddy, can you put a ribbon in my hair?”

That simple request from an innocent four year old gave me the determination and strength to take back control of my life. I resumed my career and became a better father and husband. Today she asks if she can have the keys to the car. Time goes by too quickly and I know that I will be walking her down the aisle sooner than I desire. On that day, I will be able to put the ribbons in her hair.

I love you Bethany.

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