September 28, 2000  

I cried for a man I didn't know yesterday.

Even though I knew this man who died serving others deserved my tears, I was surprised at the depth of emotion I had for Officer Daniel McCarthy — someone I had never met.

As I watched his colleagues, the rank and file of the Medfield Police Department, march out of St. Mary's Church in Foxboro followed by representatives of police departments all over the state, I realized how wrong I was.

I did know this police officer.

He is every law enforcement official I have ever met in my life.

Every man or woman in blue who has waved me through traffic.

He is the young man who came into my first-grade classroom to talk about safety and safe choices.

He is the jovial officer I knew as a young reporter, who gave a boost to a green journalist at every accident and crime story I was sent to report. The same officer I was so grateful survived a health problem he experienced on duty one night when I and police from five communities responded to the heart-pounding call of "officer down."

My heart lurched when I heard that call that night. But even though it was a shock for me to hear, it is part of the life of all police officers. Something they know could happen at any moment.

When it happens we are shocked; they are reminded of the sacrifice they make each day. Reminded that this profession could take them away from their families forever, at anytime.

Outside the church was a sea of blue and red.

Blue — the color police wear during their daily routine and on this day when they honored one of their own. Red — their eyes tinged with sorrow that a week ago "officer down" meant the death of the man known affectionately as "the kindergarten cop."

They came from all over the state. Milford. Revere. Boston. They wore black bands over their badges. Veteran officers with the weary look of experience in their eyes. They've seen this before. Rookie cops with wide-eyed fear masked by pride. They know they will face it again.

But the same pride that motivates us all to do our best, motivates them to face their fears and meet the challenge. The complex job with the simple description "To Serve. To Protect."

McCarthy went beyond.

For the "kindergarten cop," the job of helping kids grow up safely and healthy was so important he dedicated his career to this task, becoming a bicycle cop and a D.A.R.E. officer.

The dedication showed in a story told by Medfield Police Chief Richard Hurley yesterday. He recalled the first interview he had with McCarthy, who joined the force three years ago and the reply McCarthy gave when asked why he wanted the job.

"I've always wanted the job," he said.

"Hero" is the only word to describe this man who didn't hesitate at the possibility this type of tragedy could happen to him. And "hero" is how his nephew, Patrick, told the church full of people he will remember his uncle.

McCarthy's rise to become a police officer inspired this young man leaving him with two dreams: to become an officer himself and to serve alongside this uncle he loved so much.

"One of my dreams has been lost," he said.

This shouldn't have happened. But even as senseless as this is for his wife of 14 years, Kimberly, and their five children, Kasey, Courtney, Daniel Jr., Kaylee and Patrick, his death reminded us not only of how tenuous our connections are but that time passes quickly.

As best man in his wedding, and godfather to his daughter Kasey, James McCarthy talked of lost opportunities. He always meant to tell his brother how proud he was of him when he graduated from the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Police Academy in Canton with the "110 percent award," he said.

"I only wish I had told him that two months ago as I planned," he said. "Rest in peace big brother."

With "Danny Boy," a song that can bring anyone to tears, playing in the background, the family left the church to begin the procession to the cemetery. Police pallbearers walked slowly next to the hearse to the cemetery. Bagpipes played.

That his name was Danny made the song more powerful.

"Oh, Danny boy, the pipes the pipes are calling."

It may take more time for his family to find peace. Time for these children, ages 3 to 14, to find happiness. I hope the time it takes them to heal is equally as fleeting.

"Always remember in years to come that your father was a good daddy," Monsignor Frederick Ryan told his children.

It will hopefully be these memories that heal.

"My dad told me I was once a twinkle in his eye," his daughter Kasey said, showing a strength at 14 many of us never have. "I know now I will always be a twinkle in his eye."