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The Cost of Service

Yesterday afternoon, after the body of missing K-9 Officer Craig Lehner was finally located near the foot of Ontario Street, Mayor Brown issued a statement that ended,

Law enforcement personnel put their lives on the line to protect our communities every day, and today is a heartbreaking reminder of what that service can cost.

And after a five-day effort to locate Officer Lehner gripped the entire city, we also got a reminder of what that service can mean. To the seemingly hundreds of colleagues who wouldn’t rest until he was rescued or recovered, and to the city and region that seemingly joined the effort vicariously, Officer Lehner and his service meant a great deal.

As someone who loves Broderick Park, and has been involved in its revitalization, it was especially poignant to see it transformed in recent days into a place of anguish and vigil, and finally a place of heartbreak. First responders, rescue units, dive teams, boat teams, and even helicopters from all over Western New York and even beyond occupied the park, determined to stay the course until they had found their colleague.

The media, too, kept vigil, with coverage that knew no end. Every day when I checked my WNY Media Twitter list, I would scroll through and see the same names tweeting updates from the site. I wonder if some of them ever went home.

Through their coverage, Buffalo got to know Officer Lehner in a way we sadly don’t often get to know those who serve us in uniform except when one is lost (or, occasionally, when one is involved in misdeeds).

A special mention has to go to Buffalo News Metro Columnist Sean Kirst. In the short time he has been with the News – thankfully lured out of retirement – Sean Kirst has become Buffalo’s storyteller. Those of us who followed Kirst’s work for the Syracuse Post-Standard had an idea that would happen, and it has been a delight to watch. In recent days, Kirst gave us two beautiful looks at Officer Lehner and his dog, Shield. You can read them here and here. Have tissues handy.

Last evening, Mayor Brown also announced that the dome of City Hall, which has been lit blue for several nights while the search was ongoing, will remain blue tonight in honor of Officer Lehner. The Peace Bridge, which overlooks the sad site, will also be lit blue.

Blue. Like how we’re all feeling.

Officer Lehner statement

Note: montage of Officer Lehner supplied by the City of Buffalo.

Written by RaChaCha

RaChaCha

RaChaCha is a Garbage Plate™ kid making his way in a Chicken Wing world. Since 2008, he's put over a hundred articles on here, and he asked us to be sure to thank you for reading. So, thank you for reading. You may also have seen his freelance byline in Artvoice, where he writes under the name his daddy gave him [Ed: Send me a check, and I might reveal what that is]. When he's not writing, RaChaCha is an urban planner, a rehabber of houses, and a community builder. He co-founded the Buffalo Mass Mob, and would love to see you at the next one. He represents Buffalo Young Preservationists on the Trico roundtable. If you try to demolish a historic building, he might have something to say about that. He is a proud AmeriCorps alum.

Things you may not know about RaChaCha (unless you read this before): "Ra Cha Cha" is a nickname of his hometown. (Didn't you know that? Do you live under a rock?) He's a political junkie (he once worked for the president of the Monroe County Legislature), but we don't really let him write about politics on here. He helped create a major greenway in the Genesee Valley, and worked on early planning for the Canalway Trail. He hopes you enjoy biking and hiking on those because that's what he put in all that work for. He was a ringleader of the legendary "Chill the Fill" campaign to save Rochester's old downtown subway tunnel. In fact, he comes from a long line of troublemakers. An ancestor fought at Bunker Hill, and a relative led the Bear Flag Revolt in California. We advise you to remember this before messing with him in the comments. He worked on planning the Rochester ARTWalk, and thinks Buffalo should have one of those, too (write your congressman).

You can also find RaChaCha (all too often, we frequently nag him) on the Twitters at @HeyRaChaCha. Which is what some people here yell when they see him on the street. You know who you are.

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