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The News and Tribune (New Albany, Ind.) articleAug. 5, 2009
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MCDONALD: Special speaker coming to Denzinger banquet
By TIM MCDONALD
“Teach us to give and to not count the cost” — St. Ignatius Loyola
This past year in Southern Indiana, we have seen our share of law enforcement officers placed in harm’s way.
A Clark County Sheriff’s Department officer was shot last year and this year two Jeffersonville Police Department officers were wounded in the line of duty. Only a couple of weeks ago, officers in Jeffersonville answered the call and placed their lives on the line once again.
Not one of these officers hesitated when called upon to do their duty. They love their chosen profession and act to protect and to serve the residents of their community.
Most famously, two weeks ago a Cambridge, Mass., officer became embroiled in an alleged racial incident in the course of doing his job. I might add that he was supported in his actions by two black officers.
The point is law enforcement is a thankless job performed by those who are called to protect and to serve. Each day and on each seemingly simple call, the outcome can range from routine peaceful resolution to an ambush and tragic ending.
They do not perform this job alone as their families are with them constantly in worry, spirit and prayer.
Two years ago the Southern Indiana communities mourned the tragic loss of Officer Frank Denzinger and the critical wounding of Officer Joel White of the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department.
A scholarship was initiated in the name of Denzinger and an annual banquet established. The first banquet last summer featured the Rev. Bob Russell, who spoke of Denzinger’s devotion to family, community and of his love for law enforcement.
Russell tried to make sense of the tragedy and spoke of the trials and double standards some place on police officers.
On Aug. 19, the second-annual Denzinger banquet will be held at the Hoosier Room at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany. This year’s banquet features a speaker who has experienced tragedy firsthand and has chosen to move forward in faith and forgiveness.
It was one of the darkest days in America’s history — Dec. 1, 1997. Freshman Michael Carneal walked into the Heath High School lobby in West Paducah, Ky., and started shooting, killing three students and injuring five.
One of those injured students was 15-year-old Missy Jenkins, who was left paralyzed from the chest down.
But Missy never saw her disability as an end. Just hours after the tragedy, she forgave Carneal and took back her life. In the next decade, she would graduate from college, become a counselor for troubled youth, get married, have a baby and confront Carneal face to face about his actions that tragic day.
I don’t think that many of us would have that kind of courage or fortitude. Missy has a strong faith that sustains her along with perseverance. On the evening of Aug. 19, Missy Jenkins Smith will be the keynote speaker at the banquet. She will speak of her life before and after the tragedy of that horrible day 12 years ago.
Former major league pitcher Jim Abbott said of Missy: “As a 15-year-old who had just been shot and paralyzed, Missy Jenkins showed a maturity well beyond her years by immediately accepting her fate and adapting to life as a paraplegic.
“Her determination, strength and bravery shine through.”
This year’s banquet will be hosted by Rachel Platt of WHAS-TV and will interview Missy about the incident after she makes her keynote address.
The Rev. Rusty Russell of the Indiana Campus of Southeast Christian Church will deliver the invocation and benediction. Proceeds, beyond expenses, will benefit the Frank C. Denzinger Scholarship at Indiana University Southeast.
Tragedies happen to us in our lives, but Missy has found the strength to keep moving forward despite adversity, pain and difficulties in adjustment to her situation. Godspeed Missy.
Tim McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org