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The Accident

image credited to Mark Gossage
Savanna and her mom stand in front of the National Law Officers Enforcement Memorial in Washington DC where Savanna's dad, Deputy Michael Arruda is commemorated.

Savanna A., Writer

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Walking up to the memorial, I knew what I was going to see. At least I thought I would. It was the wall of the National Law Enforcement Memorial. Names are engraved into hard, cold stone. The emotions start to flood over me. And tears streamed down my cheeks, their wetness adding to the challenge of a freezing winter morning in Washington, DC.

My mom came to me. She held me in her arms. We both stood there, quietly, just looking at the name. She pointed, “That’s his name.” I stood there, unable to speak, and simply nodded my head. Mom walked over to the huge crowd of teens, parents and teachers from our school group, and gave a brief description of what happened so many years before. As she explained, I knelt down to do what they call a rubbing: tracing his name onto a piece of paper with a pencil.

On June 9, 2004, Deputy Michael Arruda and other officers responded to the call of an armed man. Unfortunately, Arruda was shot in the neck by friendly fire. This means that he was accidentally shot by another officer. It was at a Motel 6 on the side of a freeway in Hacienda Heights. This made it very difficult for the ambulance to help him. The paramedics weren’t able to reach his location because there were so many cars in the way on the road. He was carried outside and transported to a nearby ambulance on the hood of a police car. He died several days later on June 15th.

Deputy Michael Arruda was my dad.

My mom got the call soon after. She had to be transported by helicopter, since the hospital was too far away to drive. When she got to the hospital, she immediately knew that my dad wouldn’t make it. The bullet had gone through one of the main arteries that supported his brain. He had lost too much blood to survive.

My mother, Lidia Arruda, still thinks about it to this day. She had planned to meet my dad several hours earlier, but it never happened. She wonders if she could have changed the course of his day to prevent the accident. I wonder what life would be like had this happened.

It’s funny to think how we can be so attached to someone, even if we’ve never met them. We don’t know anything about that person, but we feel like we do, or did, or should. But we kind of do know them. From hearing the stories of what he was like, I started to understand something. I understood why he is missed so much. I wish I could have met him, but I can’t. And I started to love him.

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The Accident