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SMALL TOWN SPIRIT LIVES
Illinois police officers drive 18 hours to deliver special gifts

By Bruce W. Smith
Editorial Services LLC
Special to GCN    Filed 10/22/05

Waveland, Mississippi—Few residents of this small coastal town had stirred from their makeshift shelters, tents and trailers when three police cruisers and a pickup towing a fourth rolled into town. Behind the wheel of the white Ford Crown Victorias and the pickup were members of the River Grove, Illinois, police department, a small town very similar in size to Waveland.

They were bearing gifts. The four officers had just completed an 18-hour, 950 mile drive just to hand–deliver the very cruisers they were driving and towing to their brother and sister officers who had lost their own fleet of vehicles to Katrina’s devastating tidal surge.

“Our town, as well as the Village of Elmwood Park and the Cook County (Illinois) Sheriffs Department, knew we had to help our fellow officers and these vehicles, radio equipment, and gear is our way of showing that we care,” says River Grove Police Lieutenant Keith Aller, who was one of the four making the trip.

In addition to the four patrol cars, complete with fresh “City of Waveland Police” logos on their doors, each vehicle in the convoy was filled with gear, including boots, clothes, portable radios, and other items donated to assist the Waveland Police department rebuild.

As Waveland Detective Sergeant Brent Anderson said looking at the last car being rolled off a trailer, “This helps us get into the next generation of vehicles. Right now all we have is a lot full of undriveable junk.

It’s unreal someone would give us a gift like this and then jump into the cars themselves and drive nearly a 1,000 miles just to hand us the keys.”

Anderson took Aller and his fellow River Grove officers on a tour of the Waveland devastation in one of the “new” patrol cars. It was an “eye-opening” experience for the Illinois officers.

While another office video-taped the barren slabs and mile after mile of pillars where houses once stood, Aller says, “You see snippets of what happened here in Mississippi, but mostly all you see is New Orleans. The destruction here is just unbelievable. You see a few pictures, but it’s nothing compared being here and seeing it for real.” 

Undoubtedly those sights will forever be ingrained in the officers minds as the four of them sit in the cab of a pickup on an 18-hour drive back to their city, which sits in the shadow of Chicago. And it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them or their fellow officers back again on another help mission.—GCN

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