Today was the day the Monroe County Sheriff's Office remembered Deputy Robyn Tanner, a deputy assigned to the City of Marathon substation. She died last week when her patrol car crashed on her way to a medical assist. The spot where she died at 90th Street is marked by a broken stairway, a pile of flowers and teddy bears and votive candles wavering in the winter breeze. This was the day after we got back from Miami and I left my wife propped up in bed, her arm in a cast, surrounded by hot coffee newspaper and reading glasses. I took the Bonneville out for my first ride since last weekend and I have to confess I missed it.
It was a glorious day to be alive, bright sunshine, gentle north breezes blowing across the Gulf of Mexico bringing humidity down to desert-like proportions and temperatures close to 70 degrees. The liner in my armored jacket kept me warm enough and my heart was warmed in extra measure by the sunshine on the flat waters either side of the Highway.The memorial was held at the sheriff's Aviation Hangar, where they keep the medical helicopter. The field alongside was packed with law enforcement vehicles, state agencies, police departments all over Florida and our own blue and white KWPD cars scattered amongst the strangers. Outside the hangar the honor guard lined up alongside the motorcycle cops ready for the ceremony. I took my place inside the hangar next to a Highway Patrol Corporal I've talked to from time on the phone, behind a row of anonymous State Marine Patrol Officers.
Deputy Tanner's family sat in the front row, a youthful mother of the 53 year-old deputy, her father coiled tight in pain, her brothers, police officers themselves with tears streaming down their faces. The tribute went on, a mixture of oddly inappropriate humor, bathos and platitudes. But in between the remarks made by a huge group of mixed acquaintances, there shone the character of the dead deputy. Her smile , her cheerfulness, her joy at the job. Her cats, her sidearm handed over reverently to one brother, her badge to the other, pictures of Deputy tanner on the job and my worst moment the Final Radio Call, Central calling 4-1-1-7 who was never able to respond, and so was reported out of service for the last time. And so it went, the sun shone, the breeze kept the flags flapping gently and the helicopters flew by in formation.
Thus, home we variously went to our own unhappinesses and joys, certain that today was a great day to be alive and saddened by the reason that pulled us all together. The greatest tribute of all was also the most modest, made a day earlier away from the all the uniforms and dignitaries. It came from a local homeless man who donated his five dollars to Toys for Tots in Deputy Tanner's name. Because, he told her Lieutenant, she always showed me kindness and respect. No greater tribute can a deputy have than this, from the least among us.