by Jason Zangara
I was sitting in my marked West Palm Beach police car, X-291, in the 3300 block of Village Boulevard. I was working on the new Telestaff system, getting familiar with this state of the art software. I had all my windows down on the car, a very calming and strong breeze came through. As the wind struck me, I closed my eyes and took in the comforting breeze. At that point, I was calm and felt at peace.
I heard, directly behind me, a sound like a freight train slamming the brakes and the sound of iron hitting iron. With sounds of screaming horror. I exited the cruiser and started toward the chaos. Officer Rebholz was screaming into the radio, “10-18. 18. 18. Officer down, medics 10-18”!!!!!!!! I passed him in my cruiser as he was yelling at traffic. I drove past him and noticed a white pickup truck had a motorbike pinned to the guardrail. I exited my car, went to the trunk and deployed two trauma kit bags and an ambo bag. I got all bags operational and ready to go.
There were two officers on scene talking to Officer Bruce St. Lureant. Bruce was lying with his back facing northbound, his lower torso west, and his head was facing south on I-95, under the wreckage and alone! I told the other officer where the trauma bags were and that they were ready to go.
Fearing that Bruce was still under the truck face down and alone, I crawled under the highly damaged truck with the fluids flowing out and the scraped metal still hot to touch. I crawled through that stuff until I was face to face with Officer Bruce St. Lureant, and grabbed him by his Jupiter PD patch. As I held onto a piece of his patch, I noticed his green eyes were falling back into his head and I could hear the deep breaths he was fighting to take, each and every one. I then took out my flashlight and I shined it into his eyes and told him, “Bruce, fight. You will not die under this truck… Promise”. This went on for what seemed like eternity.
I could hear, via his radio, stay with the package, the package needs to be delivered, as President Obama’s escort drives by. Bruce’s eyes kept rolling back in his head. Once I shined my light into them, they would focus on the beam with amazing will and desire. The last time his eyes rolled back into his head, I grabbed him by his left Jupiter PD patch, stared into his eyes, shined the light again, and he looked right at me. Eye to eye, as one. I know Bruce was showing me compassion.
Not today, brother, not on my watch. I cannot let a brother officer die under my watch. Is what races through my mind, heart and soul. I was overcome and felt so hopeless and helpless. Fear was breathing on my neck, I smelled it. The grim reaper stared through his eyes into mine. I felt humbled and useless.
We got Bruce on the backboard and into the rig. I found a silver dollar coin with the statue of the liberty head. I thought it may mean something to Bruce. I made contact with Captain Pat Kenny, the leader of the presidential motorcade at St. Mary’s. I spoke with Chief Kritzowe at the hospital and surrender the coin. He cried on me and said this coin is very special to Bruce and his family. He had it for over 20 years. He held it everyday and all through chemo.
I met Brenda, Bruce’s wife, at the wake. She asked me if Bruce had been in a lot of pain? I told her that, besides my son being born, this was the second most life-changing moment in my life. Bruce showed strength, honor, courage, strong will, a desire to live, love and compassion that I had never seen before in someone. Being with him will change my life all my days. He was with honor, and I am honored I was with him.
I saw Chief Kritzoew told me he had presented Bruce’s grandson, Joshua, with the coin on my behalf. His wife said lots of kind words to me in front of those in attendance. I told to her that I didn’t do anything special! She grabbed me and with a firm voice stated, “You are the only one who did something special! You were there, eye to eye as a brother”.
Brenda walked me to the family limo. She wanted me to meet Joshua. I watched him crying and rubbing his Papa’s Commitment coin 1880. With hundreds of police officers standing by, Brenda hugs me and says, “Jason, thank you for being there with him”. I said he was with me. Now I’ll be here for you. Her door closed and I stood alone in salute as her limo departed.
We both went our separate ways to deal with our broken hearts. God, show your grace on Bruce and his family. I need you as well, more than ever!
About the Author: Jason Zangara is the son of a retired Regimental Commander of Valley Forge, Benjamin Zangara. He has one brother who is a police officer in New Jersey and another brother who served four tours of duty in the Special Forces. “My brother is the officer nobody likes, but prays he is the one that answers the call when they are fighting for their lives”.
Jason is from Garfield, New Jersey and currently resides in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He is a single father to an eight year old son, Bear. Jason served two years as a Corrections officer and eleven years as a Police officer. He is proud to have received two life saving medals, Excellent Police Duty medal, Meritorious Medal, Combat Cross, and is nominated for Governor Rick Scott’s Officer of Valor award. Jason was also awarded the Chief’s Coin of Bravery and Commitment.