To Serve and Protect

Of all the events that fill the history
of quiet, little–known Uvalde town,
there cannot be a greater tragedy
than that which gave it sudden world–renown.

The dreadful act, so horribly malign,
extends the sickening flow of children’s blood
that drenched both Sandy Hook and Columbine—
now immemorial the nightmarish flood.

Uvalde is unique in one respect—
a sobering peculiarity to ponder:
an “active shooter” many could detect,
but till too late not one “active responder.”

Police issued an explanation clear:
the situation being awfully hot,
the officers felt reasonable fear;
they all were thinking Maybe I’ll be shot!

(One wonders, by compare, what was the thought
or speech as troops advanced on Normandy?
But that was eighty years ago. We’re taught
these days to see such things quite differently.)

Stay safe! each officer must have advised
himself. Thank God my kids are not in there.
Have we heroics’ worth downwards revised,
has Am I safe? replaced the heart to dare?



Julian D. Woodruff, who contributes poetry frequently to the Society of Classical Poets, writes poetry and short fiction for children and adults. He recently finished 2020-2021, a poetry collection. A selection of his work can be read at Parody Poetry, Lighten Up Online, Carmina Magazine, and Reedsy.

NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets.

The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

CODEC Stories:

11 Responses

  1. Joseph S.Salemi

    The Uvalde police authorities seem to have had a bad conscience about this gross dereliction of duty, because they attempted to cover up what had happened. There was a frantic flurry of administrative buck-passing before the whole truth came out — namely, that those officers were too afraid to confront and kill one lousy teenage punk, whom they could hear murdering the children and teachers.

    In combat, soldiers who refuse to go into battle and face the enemy are shot on the spot. Perhaps that should be a rule in police departments too.

  2. Thomas

    While I feel They The Police Should Have Taken Immediate Action, I Realize That There Are Many Protocols The Police Must Follow. I’m Not Excusing or Accusing The Whole Matter Is Quite Confusing. In Your Message I Hear a Man Speaking From Heart Felt Tiredness Of the Evil That Encircles Us Daily. Still Be Blessed and Not Stressed Dear Brother Salemi. Take care *

  3. Margaret Coats

    Julian, thanks for addressing the issue. Sad to say, Uvalde is not unique. “Officer safety” is a widespread policy that endangers defenseless persons even when potential defenders are readily available. I know best the Parkland High School story of 2018. The school employed an armed security guard who hid while a former student killed 17 and injured 15. He was later charged with culpable negligence. But that’s not all. Several Broward County sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene and drew guns but did not enter. Police arriving later from neighboring Coral Springs saw idle Broward cowards as they rushed into the school. And that’s not all. The FBI had previously received a tip about the shooter but had never investigated. And a school staff member saw the shooter enter. The teen had been expelled as dangerous, but the staff member decided not to call code red, giving the thug plenty of time. The “stay safe” men outnumbered the Coral Springs police and the high school coach who did his best to defend students barehanded. The coach was among those shot dead. There are just too many irresponsible and cowardly adults in these cases, compared to the number of men “with the heart to dare.”

  4. Paul Freeman

    This must have been very painful to write, Julian. All our expectations of law enforcement diminished at a stroke. And what those kids went through and were thinking doesn’t bear thinking about.

    Thanks for highlighting this sad chapter.

  5. Sally Cook

    So sad – what have we lost in those dear children because of bureaucratic cowardice?

  6. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Julian, your poem is written with sensitivity and clarity – rare qualities in this age of selfishness and obfuscation. These heartrending lines say it all: ‘an “active shooter” many could detect, / but till too late not one “active responder.’ Your ‘troops at Normandy’ reference highlights the atrocity those who are meant to protect our children indulged in. I fear Uvalde is a microcosm of what our world has become and the term “To Serve and Protect” will be changed to reflect our cowardly new world in the Merriam Webster dictionary before Summer is out. Thank you very much for this much-needed poem.

  7. Roy E. Peterson

    Julian, you hit the proverbial nail on the head! I have difficulty coming to terms with such cowardice and dereliction of duty! The world that has gone mad has fallen over the precipice! Thank you for sharpening the sword!

  8. Joshua C. Frank

    Wow… it shows exactly what we’re all feeling in the wake of that incident. I’ve lost all respect for the police as a result, and plan to learn how to use a gun to defend myself and my family.

    What sickens me is that the police preferred the deaths of children to the loss of their jobs. (But hey, what do you expect in a country where women clamor for the “right” to do to their own unborn children what Hitler did to the Jews?) I can’t say any more of what I think of them because this is a public website.

  9. Julian D. Woodruff

    Thank you all for your interesting comments–especially Margaret (Margaret, I’m not as aware as I should be of the facts in this growing train of grizzly doings)–and for your kind remarks about the poem. What keeps getting me is that with so many soldiers, they were drafted, and many must have gone to war unwillingly. And yet they did what was needed & demanded, at least by and large, didn’t they? Maybe some were thinking about what would become of them if they failed, but I’m guessing not many. But who told those officers in Uvalde (one force or another) that they had to join up?

  10. Margaret Coats

    Julian, you are quite right in your thinking. Your poem concludes wondering why the personal “Am I safe?” replaces the heroic “heart to dare” needed in situations where men are called upon to defend children. It’s a big societal question.

    I understated the daring hearts at Parkland, Florida. THREE of the 17 persons killed were athletic faculty who knew what to do without being told. Aaron Feis heard from a fleeing student that someone was loading a gun. He put that student in a safe place, entered the building as shooting began, and was shot as he approached the shooter. Chris Hixon tried to seize the gun and disarm the shooter, who killed him. Scott Beigel had his classroom door locked (as it should be when there is danger) but opened it to let in desperate students from the hallway, where they had no place to hide from the gunman. Beigel used his body to shield their entry into his room. The bullets that killed him could have ended several younger lives.

    The problem is that these daring hearts had only bare hands to fight. At least one had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but as guns are banned on school grounds, he (and others) died for lack of a gun. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy who has one and is willing to use it. In your words, an active responder.

    All the more perplexing is why armed and trained police and security guards take no action. In war (or so I’ve heard) esprit de corps encourages military units to fight for one another as they accomplish a mission. What paralyzes some of today’s police units responding to danger? You’re right to ask.

  11. Joseph S. Salemi

    Julian, soldiers in combat who show cowardice by refusing to fight or advance towards the enemy are shot out of hand. If you won’t face enemy bullets, you’ll face American ones. This (along with the esprit de corps and self-respect that Margaret mentions) is what keeps most soldiers obedient to orders.

    The police today face a more complicated problem. They have been demonized and vilified by Mainstream Media, they have been openly mocked and degraded by elected officials, they suffer massive defunding, and they must endure endless criticism and second-guessing and prosecution for whatever forceful steps they take in a confrontation. No police officer can make a move without worrying about a ruinous lawsuit and the loss of his pension. Police officers are retiring or resigning en masse here in New York City, and are not being replaced because nobody wants the job. The same is true in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, and many smaller localities.

    Why has that piece of criminal ghetto garbage, George Floyd, been turned into a secular saint, while the police who confronted him were prosecuted? What does that tell you about the dominant political and cultural mentality of the United States at this point in time?

    In the light of all this, consider the situation of the ordinary policeman when faced with dangerous trouble. Should he take steps on his own initiative that may cost him his life or his job, or should he simply sit back and wait for administrative directions?

    I don’t defend the inaction of the Uvalde police. It was reprehensible to ignore the cries of those children. But the political context of our day MUST be taken into account. When left-liberals have power, and make police work legally liable or impossible, the average cop is going to think twice before risking his life.

    In Spain under the great Francisco Franco, officers in the Guardia Civil had complete and unquestioned authority to suppress, shoot, or kill ANYBODY who caused trouble, and they were specifically exempt from any legal prosecution concerning their act. Spain was a wonderfully safe land back then.

    As Margaret points out, the real problem at Parkland was that the three brave men who tried to help DID NOT HAVE GUNS! A profoundly stupid law made it impossible for them to carry weapons on school grounds. That law, needless to say, did not prevent the shooter from bringing a weapon. And yet we have utterly moronic liberals who say that the solution is to take guns out of the hands of law-abiding persons via unconstitutional anti-gun laws.

    When law-abiding persons lose the right to bear arms, and when the police forces are terrified of doing anything that might land them in court, you will have the crime explosion that is starting right now.


Leave a Reply to Joseph S. Salemi Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...