“It’s a hard day ... a day that doesn’t get any easier.”
Gwen Russell knows all too well the dangers of policing, and the sadness that follows when things take a turn for the worse.
Police Remembrance Day is just another day to reflect on the loss of her only son, Senior Constable David Rixon VA, who was killed in the line of duty on March 2 last year.
For colleagues, friends, family, even random strangers – it’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions as thoughts, prayers and memories come flooding back.
Yesterday’s solemn service in Manilla was nothing short of that. Past and present officers, the RSL, and other emergency service and defence personnel stood side by side the men and women in blue as they paused to remember 252 officers killed in the line of duty across NSW since 1862.
Highway patrolman David Rixon and domestic violence co-ordinator Sabine Altmann were at the forefront of the service – their smiling images gracing the front of the church.
Also in the hearts and minds of those present was the most recent NSW officer killed on duty, Detective Inspector Bryson Anderson, who died in December.
Acting Oxley Local Area Commander Superintendent Jeff Budd said it was an emotionally-charged day.
“You never quite know which card you will be dealt,” he said. “Sometimes you will be dealt a joker and fate will take over.”
The dangers every officer faces when they pull on the uniform was ever present in the minds of the dozens who packed the Presbyterian church, as well as in the minds of the thousands across the nation who paused to remember yesterday.
“It’s true, we go towards the things that other people fear, what they don’t want to face,” Acting Superintendent Budd said.
“That’s our lot in life, that’s what we do.”
The murder of David Rixon was one, the tragic crash of Sabine Altmann another, but everyone was given a stark reminder as news trickled through yesterday morning a Queensland police officer had been shot while responding to reports of a robbery on the Gold Coast.
“Today is a consistent reminder of the fragility of all our lives and of how quickly it can change,” Acting Superintendent Budd said.
“The same as in Dave’s situation – when Dave was killed, who was to know?
“Half an hour before he was at a motor vehicle accident, half an hour later we all know.”
Eyes were watering, heads were bowed, minds were reflecting and thoughts were pondering as prayers and readings paid tribute to not only lives lost but those impacted by the difficult job on the blue line.
Police chaplain Terry Logan told the gathering every officer had a part to play.
“We should be grateful for their selfless acts,” he said.
“We thank you for it.”
Acting Superintendent Jeff Budd said it was true – police officers didn’t turn their backs.
“There are some good things – sometimes they’re hard to define. But we have a lot of pleasure in what we do,” he said.
“There is a need to serve and we do that. I’m extremely proud of every cop in Oxley.
“It’s hard to please everybody, but we do a great job and I’m confident of that.”
Constable Bill Crews, who grew up in Glen Innes, was also in the thoughts of his family, friends and colleagues yesterday.
Constable Crews, stationed in Sydney, was shot and killed during a drug raid in September 2010.