"Heartbreaking" may be an overused adjective. But sometimes no other word works.
"Heartbreaking" was mentioned hundreds of times this week by hundreds of people being made aware of the death of Champaign police officer Chris Oberheim. He was killed Wednesday in an early-morning shootout with a suspect. The suspect was also killed, and a fellow office of Oberheim was wounded.
With each succeeding detail, the story became more tragic.
Oh no, this guy graduated from Stephen Decatur and was a police officer in Decatur for seven years. His brother is still serving on the Decatur force.
Oh no, he lived in a small town, Monticello, where every person's importance and presence is magnified.
Oh no, he and his wife had four daughters. One of them graduates from high school on Sunday.
Part of the job of police is to understand coming face-to-face with mortality on a regular basis, knowing there’s a possibility that the next door opened for you could be the last. Protecting and serving is the duty, and mortality is the ultimate sacrifice.
As long as there are bad and desperate people, society will need a way to control it. We’ve appointed our police to do that, along with several other duties we’ve shoved and continue to shove onto their plate.
It’s always a good idea to think about and be thankful for the work we expect from our law enforcement workers. And it’s always a good idea to remember that these are people just like us, albeit with skills shared by a select few. But they’re also husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.
They are individuals trained and assigned their role by society. The times may change laws and accepted methods of behavior. But the times will never change from us demanding a willingness to make this kind of sacrifice.
We’re thankful so many individuals are willing to make the sacrifice. We equally and sincerely desire for it to never happen again, even as we know it will.
As is the case with every other officer, Chris Oberheim understood from the second his career began that being in the line of fire was one of the tasks the job required. That he did not flinch from that duty shows the true measure of the man.
An equal measure of the man is the statement from the family. The statement started with the Bible verse, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of Go,” and said he lived by the verse. It concluded, “He fulfilled the roles of husband and father best.”