A daughter’s father died today. A woman’s husband died. A Chicago Police officer died.
We, as a city, so often see only the last. The officer in his uniform, the symbol of law and order, of authority and protection.
If only we could see them all — the husband and the family man, the friend and the neighbor, the officer on the job. If only we could see them all the time, not just when an officer is killed in the line of duty.
When it is too late.
We found ourselves staring Tuesday afternoon at this photo of Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer — not the one in which he proudly wears his uniform, but this one. He is holding his daughter Grace’s hand. She is holding his hand to her cheek.
This is the way we want to remember Cmdr. Bauer, in his polo shirt and dad shorts, with his little girl by his side. He was her protector, and he was our protector, and those two things are not unrelated.
We have never known a police officer who did not become a cop for the best of reasons — to serve and protect, at some level accepting our city as an extension of family.
Cmdr. Bauer was only 53 when he was killed on Tuesday, hardly old enough to collect a little gray hair. He had joined the Chicago Police Department in 1986, when he was just 21.
He was just old enough then to buy a legal drink, to know the world is an unsafe place, to want to be one of the good guys. He worked all over town, nights and days, and climbed the ranks.
That’s how it goes when you’re a Chicago cop. You head off to work each day before the dew is off the grass or when the sun is going down, and as you say goodbye to your family, a little part of you — and a little part of them — says a prayer that you make it home again.
We don’t know much about how Cmdr. Bauer was killed. We’ll learn soon enough. We know only that he confronted a suspect at the Thompson Center, and the suspect apparently opened fire.
Cmdr. Bauer, that is to say, was doing his job, which involves moving toward danger, not away.
We would like to remember him as we see him in this photo, out of uniform and with his little girl, because we believe it would be very good if our city were to see every officer in this way — as a man or woman who is doing a job we are so glad to have done.
Somewhere today, a wife and a daughter are crying, and so should we all.
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