The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion. Proverb 28:1
Most likely, Officer Michael Crawshaw had no reason to believe that his shift as a Penn Hills (Pennsylvania) police officer would be any different on December 6th, 2009. Officer Michael Crawshaw was killed in an ambush during his shift on December 6th, 2009.
He was the first to respond to a call and parked a couple houses away while waiting for backup in his squad car. While waiting, the perpetrator exited the home where he had just murdered an individual over a drug debt and ambushed Officer Crawshaw in his vehicle. Officer Crawshaw died from his injuries at age 32. The perpetrator was later apprehended and ultimately found guilty of his crimes and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
I never met Officer Michael Crawshaw. I never heard his name until his death when it was all over the news. Soon, I learned that he had graduated from my high school. I was in my senior year at the time. I remember seeing one of the teachers at my school be interviewed by the news as she had also graduated from the school and knew Officer Crawshaw. In the last couple of years, it had seemed like the number of officers killed in the line of duty continued to climb and in its frequency. The city mourned. I was an EMT and junior firefighter at the time. I knew many police officers and considered some friends. This was the closest one to hit to home, and really it was only because he graduated from Shaler too.
Soon, life went back to how it was for most of us. This excludes, of course, the family and friends of Officer Crawshaw. In the weeks, months, and even years after they faced the task not only of learning to live without him, but also of coming to terms with his death and how he died; why they lost him so soon as he just tried to do his job to serve and protect others. They also wondered how they could honor his memory and make sure he was remembered.
The Penn Hills Police Department sold shirts and those rubber band bracelet things marking his loss and cementing his memory. This, unfortunately, was not uncommon. We were seeing too frequently line of duty deaths for police officers in the area and these were means to remember the fallen and at times, raise money for the family; for things such as funeral costs or the future of any children.
As I said, at the time, the Pittsburgh/Western Pennsylvania area was seeing far too many of these deaths in an alarmingly short amount of time. And at the time, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. At the time, I was considering a career as a lawyer. Lord knows enough people told me I was good at arguing. But I didn’t want to just be a lawyer. I wanted to help first responders. I wanted to stop the senseless murders of police officers. I wanted to help protect first responders. I had no idea how I was going to accomplish any of this, least of all as a lawyer, but it seemed like a good idea to me.
We know that obviously I did not become a lawyer. Things change. Just stay with me though, 18-year-old Tori counting down to going to Robert Morris thinking she’s going to change the world. Got it?
I was also applying for scholarships left and right at that time. I had received a scholarship from the school, but I needed all the help I could get. Anything I thought I had a chance at, I applied.
Meanwhile, Michael Crawshaw’s friends and family decided to implement a scholarship to help a Shaler graduate planning to pursue a program related to law enforcement. I took a chance. I wrote my essay about how I wanted to help first responders. I didn’t really think I had a chance because I figured they were more focused on kids who wanted to become police officers. But a few months later, I went to an award ceremony recognizing graduating seniors on scholarships and awarding a few more. I had one a couple from the area, and so I went with my parents. It’s been eight years, I don’t remember it all perfectly. I know I had been award one additional scholarship by the time they got to the last few. I was already elated by that.
There was one guy who was announcing the awardees of of the first Michael Crawshaw Memorial scholarship. Four individuals were named. I did not expect Victoria Mikulan to be one, but I was. I was shocked.
Of the four of us, one other girl wanted to be a lawyer too. She graduated from Stanford Law. The two other guys who won wanted to be police officers. I know one didn’t become one, I have no idea about the other.
I, of course, did not become a lawyer for a variety of reasons. Eventually, I would learn that my written word could be just as powerful. But I would always feel some guilt for not becoming a lawyer and trying to change the world for police.
However, I gained something more than that scholarship. I don’t really remember how, but I ended up connecting with Joe, who had presented the scholarship and was one of Mike’s best friends. It turned out that he had graduated from RMU. Eventually, we both worked at the same company. But by connecting with Joe, I ended up being able to do more for the Crawshaw scholarship fund. When they had Cash Bash’s to try and raise money for the scholarship, I worked them. My mom did as well. At these events, I had the opportunity to meet more of Mike’s family including his mother. I met a local newscaster who was dating a Penn Hills police officer who had worked with Mike, and she told me what she learned about Mike from him. It turned out that a firefighter I knew whose son played baseball with my youngest brother was also one of Mike’s best friends.
I never knew him. But I began to get an idea of him. After the funeral when the media and cameras leave, it is just the family and friends and peers (who in public safety often consider each other family. It is a unique, strong bond) to pick up the pieces. Memorial scholarships are all over the place. How often do we consider the person behind the memorial? I began to consider Michael Crawshaw. Through his scholarship, I did feel connected to him. I don’t know how many people feel that way when they win a memorial scholarship. Getting to know his family and friends and helping work events to continue raising money for the scholarship – I really started to feel a connection to him and a duty to keep his memory alive.
I can’t tell you all the officers in the Pittsburgh area who have died in the line of duty since then. Far too many, I know that much. But it is important to me that Officer Michael Crawshaw and his sacrifice are remembered. I can at least make sure one officer continues to be remembered for his bravery and his sense of duty and to make it so his sacrifice is not in vain. Whenever I hear of another officer down, of a loss as they perform their duty of protecting the community, I think of Michael Crawshaw.
At a local baseball field and park nearby, there is a monument with his image etched in stone. They renamed the baseball field after him. I’ve gone there countless times throughout my life, growing up we would go there for Fourth of July fireworks. We still do on some years. I always make sure to go by.
Remember the rubber bracelet things? At some point, I got one and put it on the shield of my fire helmet. It is another way to remember him. I took it off once for a training because I didn’t want it to get ruined – and managed to burn a finger in a freak moment. After that, I decided I was never going to take it off again. It is almost like a guardian angel at my back now.
I know I’ve given you very little of Michael Crawshaw; how do you sum up a life in words? How do you paint the picture of someone you know through the conversation of others? I just hope that on today, the ninth anniversary of Officer Michael Crawshaw’s death, you will remember him. Remember Officer Michael Crawshaw. He was killed doing his job. As he was ambushed, he never had a chance. He knew the risk of his job. But he was willing to risk his life for people he would never meet. Keeping the memory of him alive helped me pay for my future. His future was stolen from him. The very minimum that I can do is keep his memory alive.
It is kind of hard to do so. I don’t know the best way to do so. If I had the opportunity to help out at fundraising events, I’d do anything in my power to do so. If I couldn’t be there, I’d still try to support it and definitely advertise.
People should know. Of course we all know this happens. But this is different. It is different when you put a face to a name, when you meet the family and friends. The officer is no longer faceless. The image is no longer blurred, they begin to come into focus. He’s just like your brother. Your friend. Your softball buddy. The guy who sits across from you at the bar. Anyone. He can be anyone just like you.
I am thankful for the police who protect us. I am thankful for my friends who serve as police and pray for their protection.
Take a moment today and remember Officer Michael Crawshaw. I keep his name on my helmet; I know it is there every time I grab it to put it on. You can’t miss it on there. I keep it and hope his memory continues to live on.
I wish that my thoughts would be a little bit more eloquent. But, I do have a speech from Harry Potter and the Goblet of FIre by JK Rowling I would like to share.
“Remember Cedric. Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right, and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory.”
I think that it applies pretty well. He might have not met an evil wizard, but he was just trying to do his job. And we’re most likely not to meet evil wizards (I guess it’s a possibility?) or anyone truly evil, but by doing the right thing we can honor the memory of Officer Crawshaw and the other fallen officers alongside him.
Remember him. And may Officer Crawshaw continue to rest in peace.