Not too many decades ago my home town of current residence for the past 28 years was unflatteringly referred to as "God's waiting room," euphemistically so labeled because it had been embraced as the final roosting spot for hundreds of our nation's seasoned citizens who had flocked from the colder northern climes to enjoy their remaining days basking in our warming sunshine. The streets of downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, particularly along both sides of Central Avenue, were neatly spaced rows of "green benches" upon which our elderly residents would while away the day's hours in casual communal communication. Those iconic green benches have long since disappeared, as has the city's melancholy reputation, to evolve and reinvent itself into the state's fourth largest city, teeming with a vibrant, younger and proud citizenship that is eager to make and keep their hometown an enviable place to live and raise family.
Not unlike Tuson, Arizona, where the recent tragedies unfolded, St. Petersburg also regards itself as a "biggest, little city." With a population of just under 250,000, the axiom of six degrees of separation firmly and lovingly holds we citizens in its embrace. We all know somebody that knows somebody who knows us. We proudly celebrate each other's victories and morn each other's tragedies. On this past Monday tragedy wrapped its icy fingers around the throat of our city. Two of our city's finest, police officers Tom Baitinger and Jeffery "Yaz" Yaslowitz, were fatally gunned down in a hale of bullets inflicted by a wanted felon as he attempted to cowardly hide in the attic. Collectively our hearts stopped and the expressions of disbelief and tears of sorrow poured forth.
Today my home church humbly, proudly and reverently served as the host facility for the funeral of these two fallen policeman. An estimated 15,000 people were in attendance at the memorial service. It was further anticipated that thousands more of we St. Petersburg and citizens of Flordia watched on television with quite and reflective hearts. For we citizens who were so humbly served by these two men, who gave their full measure of service to their fellow citizens, it is the very least that we can and should do.
May God rest their souls eternally and honor each of these fallen heroes as we who remain behind pay our final respects to the two lives so well spent in our service.