“They say time heals, that’s a lie, time does not heal…” Retired Police Officer Henry Melchiona
The sun never shines in the subway. So an on-duty Transit Cop never sees it unless he goes upstairs…to the light.
But I thought on this day, at least, on a mezzanine at the top of a Manhatten subway entrance, we’d see some sun. Not to be.
I stood snugged up beneath an overhang, shoulder to shoulder with my Brother and Sister officers trying to keep out of the rain. We were there to honor a fallen Brother, once again.
I also remember standing with them in the long uniformed formation in 1970. We were lined up under the el, near 58th St and Roosevelt Ave, Queens: https://tinyurl.com/funeral-MM
I remember the crying bagpipes, I remember the passing number 7 train overhead, sounding long mournful blasts of its horn; a Motorman’s humble tribute added to the gathering below.
Michael Melchiona, killed in the line of duty, was then being mourned at his funeral service at St. Sebastion’s church. I only had four years on the job then, Michael had just a bit longer.
We both had very young children, he had a child at home…just two weeks old. We both worked to support our families in our chosen careers as Police Officers of the NYC Transit Police.
We were here to honor him again, Sept 10th, 2018, some 48 years after a man fired a bullet into this brave cop’s head. We were here to dedicate, in his name, the subway stop where the horrendous event began, 50th St. station # 1, line. The event that took this young cop forever from his family.
When the sun went down that far off day I would be going home to my children while Michael would be laid to rest. His children would never have the comfort of his presence, his guidance, his words of wisdom to help them through this peril-filled life.
Death can result from the most mundane police circumstances, pulling a car over for a traffic violation, questioning teens on a building’s rooftop.
Michael was doing his job when he approached a man in a subway toilet at 50th St. and Broadway. He was only going to issue him a summons for smoking in the subway, a mere Health Code violation. It was something so routine, just another tedious aspect of policing the subways of New York.
Until it wasn’t tedious…until it was deadly.
The man, a convicted murderer out on parole, pulled out a gun. He took Micheal’s gun then fled to the street.
Michael, though unarmed, chased after the man. Yes, unarmed, he chased after the man…who now had two guns.
Michael pursued the man to the street, calling out, “Stop him, he has my gun!” A nearby officer responded to Michael’s words. Many gunshots soon reverberated off Manhattan skyscrapers. The man fired a bullet at Police Officer Michael Melchiona, killing him. The second officer was shot but was able to kill the killer.
The New York Times story of the shooting: https://tinyurl.com/MMshooting-NYT
In the rain this September morning, police brass spoke words of “hero, dedication, bravery.”
Heartfelt and accurate though the words were, they could not compete with the words of Micheal’s brother, Henry, also a Transit Cop.
Henry Melchiona served the NYC Transit Police as a Firearms Instructor. And this day Henry spoke bullet words, hollow point projectiles piercing the rain, “They say time heals, that’s a lie, time does not heal, it only makes things a little easier.”
“Time heals…a lie,” Henry’s words ricocheted across the rain splattered mezzanine.
I had always felt a certain comfort in “time heals.” Henry’s powerful words refuted that. Yes, Henry was right, time doesn’t always “heal.”
“Healing” means to be made whole again. But those present who had holes blasted through their lives knew what of Henry spoke. The hole of loss, the hole of emptiness, the black hole never to “heal”, never to make one whole.
What do we learn from all this? We learn that men and women serve in many ways to protect us, to keep order, enforce our laws. We learn they do so with a danger that is always present.
We will never know what would have happened had one of our family members of the 70s entered that subway toilet before Police Officer Michael Melchiona.
We will never know for sure that Michael prevented a hole from being blasted through the family of one of you. But he damn well may have. One of you might not be here today to read these humble words.
So, one might say, “Michael Melchiona took a bullet for us.”
On that September morning, we remembered Michael. We thanked him too, as we heard his brother speak, from his still broken heart, those…bullets in the rain.
Shedding a little light wherethesundontshine