I have struggled with what – if anything – to write about the things I saw and felt on Friday.

My friend and talented photographer, Ken Noblezada, shared with me photos of where he was in Mooresville during Friday’s funeral procession for fallen Officer Jordan Sheldon. I at least want to share a bit of my experience to go along with his breathtaking photos. Please forgive me if I ramble ..

Maybe I just don’t have words. Or maybe – perhaps for one of the first times in my life – I just want to keep something to myself. I want to hold my memories close and safeguard them … store them away, somewhere safe in a broken heart …

… is that possible?

It’s interesting how grief can bring people together. It’s a bonding agent. Different worlds collide, turning strangers into friends … even family.

When my dad died tragically in a trucking accident almost 13 years ago, I remember the loneliness I felt in the deepest pits of my gut, heart and soul. It’s a feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But people came from everywhere in those first days and weeks. They leaned in with love, compassion, concern and support. It was like nothing I’d ever seen or experienced before. It felt overwhelming at times, and it kept our family buoyed.

That was a space I never asked for or wanted to be in. But once put in it – due to circumstances outside of my control – I didn’t want to leave. Let me explain: the love and support we felt in those first days was so intense that I didn’t want to return to normal life ever again. It felt like home. Like family. Like warm comfort, reassuring. It was the rawest, realest love I’ve ever felt.

That’s what happened in Mooresville last week. We mourned the tragic, untimely passing of one of our very bravest and finest, Jordan Sheldon. Colleagues last week became family. Necks were hugged. Cheeks were kissed. Tears were shed, and memories – even laughs – were shared.

I felt somehow blessed to be in the very heart of that mourning. The vigils, the memorials, the texts and the phone calls.

And then, at the very last minute on Friday, I was asked to accompany precious cargo – my friend, NC Sen. Vickie Sawyer – to Officer Sheldon’s funeral.

I was honored beyond words to sit among some of the most giant, bravest heroes I know. I shared space with people I just met last week who now feel like dear friends … even family. They are men and women who have tough exteriors but the biggest hearts I will ever know. Selfless and gracious, kind and courageous.

Despite how hard they seem on the outside, they feel … very, very deeply … on the inside. Their hearts are broken – shattered, actually – and they will need our support for a long time. So will Jordan’s family.

I was moved beyond belief on Friday by construction workers along I-77 who stopped what they were doing and stood, hardhats-over-hearts, for a procession line that reportedly reached 14 miles before we even made our way out of Charlotte. It was much longer by the time we made it to Mooresville’s Main Street, the heart of a town that Officer Sheldon loved so much, according to those who knew him best and loved him most.

Kids held signs and yelled “thank you!” along the route. A sea of people, from Charlotte to Mooresville, waved American flags, many of which were black-and-white and revealed just one thin, blue line. Most everyone was wearing blue.

People and fire/rescue groups from towns along the route lined overpasses. Flags were draped over bridges. Firefighters and police stood on top of firetrucks and saluted as the procession passed underneath.

One firefighter stood atop an extended ladder, where a flag waved in the wind.

A single bagpiper played among the crowd gathered off I-77/Exit 33.

Clouds were grey and heavy.

Raindrops fell.

A community mourned.

It’s a day I will grieve and remember forever.

Sending my undying love, respect and gratitude to Jordan’s family and my friends, the good people of the Mooresville Police Department. Please know I’m so grateful for you and your service.

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