Wednesday, September 8, 2010

War Story Wednesday - A Day Late & A Dollar Short

Today's War Story comes from one of my former bosses. During his rookie years in the early 1970s, he got a call to contact Police Headquarters. His assignment was to make a death notification to a resident in his sector, about a man who had died in NYC ~ about an hour away from Suffolk County.

When he knocked on the door at 3 a.m., the resident, obviously just awakened, opened the door.

The rookie compassionately delivered the news about the deceased in NYC.

"Yeah, and?" the groggy man replied.

His brusque reaction puzzled the young officer, leaving him speechless.

The resident barked, "We buried him two weeks ago!"


If you have a war story you'd like to share, either enter it in the comments or provide a link to your blog and I'll update the page.

Photo: '70s teletype machine ~ from Dickinson PD Virtual Museum


  1. Kathleen - Thanks for sharing this war story. The 'photo is a great fit for the story, too. I really feel for your boss, too. As it is, delivering that kind of heartbreaking news is difficult, but to face that kind of reaction - for that reason - must have been even harder. I'd love to know how he responded to what the man said.

  2. You just never know what to expect when delivering bad news such as a death, but that would not be one response that I would have every guessed.Does lead to a lot of questions.

    Thoughts in Progress

  3. Hi Margot, Mason, and Charles,
    I remember when he was telling me this story that I wondered about the urgency of making the notification at 3 a.m. The subject would still be deceased at 9 a.m., and there wasn't anything that could be done (unless the person being notified wanted to get a jump on traffic before rush hour if they needed to respond for a notification).
    I experienced this myself on the job; I had received a death notification and I responded to a residence in which the family had already gathered, and they were quiet when I arrived. Before I could even say anything, someone said they already knew; which explained the larger number of people in the room.
    I think my sergeant just apologized; he was shocked at hearing the person was buried two weeks prior. We used to get these notifications via teletype, and occasionally from other jurisdictions. Someone, somewhere dropped the ball in the communication process. It doesn't surprise me, considering it was in the 1970s (so I can't rule out the time warp theory, Charles!).
    I'll have to see about posting my personal essay/memoir, "The Watcher" which appeared in the Winter/Spring 2010 edition of The Southampton Review ~ I'd love to share it with you. It's about several death notifications (and a certain person's reaction) and it is a WILD story. It won a Creative NonFiction Award from the Public Safety Writers Association. Frank McCourt suggested I write the story after I shared it with him and the memoir workshop participants in July 2007.
    I bet I could write a book on death notifications ~ they are some of the most interesting stories ~ and they are all different ~ no two are alike!
    Thank you all for stopping by today and commenting ~ I appreciate it.