Every reporter wants their stories to make an impact. Often, you never know that you've made a difference, that you've touched someone's life. This is about a past connection coming full circle to the present, and the proud promise of a future.
It was just one of those moments. In the throng of thousands celebrating their personal triumphs at a recent NYPD academy graduation ceremony, I locked eyes with a proud parent. His face?. so familiar.
"We have met. We met 14 years ago," he said.
Sergeant Darren Finn was a cop in the NYPD's bike patrol unit in the summer of 1995. I rode with them as they patrolled housing projects in East New York, Brooklyn.
Six months later, I sat with Sgt. Finn in his hospital room just days after he'd been shot three times in a fierce gun battle while searching for a paroled killer in a project in Queens. Finn's vest stopped the bullet fired into his chest; another tore thru his armpit and a third shattered his gun hand. But the courageous cop still managed to fire back, saving his partner and wounding the suspect.
Sgt. Finn was forced to retire, but his legacy lives on. Timothy Finn is 23.
"30 years ago today, my son has graduated from the academy carrying my same shield number," Darren Finn said.
And then there was that moment. It turns out Finn's wife and two children had been unable to reach him after he'd been shot in that winter of '95.
"There was a snow blizzard and my family couldn't get to the hospital to see me, and you and I did an interview at that time, and that's how my children knew I was alive, because of you. So thank you," Darren said, giving me a hug.
"He was alive and it was one of the greatest, most gratifying moments besides graduating today and managing to carry on in his footsteps with his shield number," Timothy Finn said.
A few days ago, Darren Finn and I sat down again together, to talk more about his son, the shield and the sacrifice.
"It'll never heal. You'll never forget it," Darren said. "I can recite everything (from that night) that took place frame by frame in my head?. Then I was living in the moment. I didn't have any time to think about it. Now years later, it's raw nerves. It never goes away?. I've had nightmares numerous occasions, but it's ok, It's good. I'm here. I could be in a worse other place."
And then, we watched the interview together?.for the first time.
"As we watch that video, there's a little teddy bear on my lap. That teddy bear was sent in from my kids, and that's how my children, my son and daughter, knew that dad was alive," he said.
That was the first time that he had seen the video.
As for his son's choice to become a police officer?
"I asked him to be a nurse, but he didn't want to be a nurse. He wanted to be a police officer. That was his calling," he said. "It's what he wants to do, so we'll support him."
So if you happen to run into officer Timothy Finn, shield number 2795, take a second to thank him for his service, and for what he and his dad stand for.
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