When a police officer falls in the line of duty, it brings the entire community together in the face of tragedy. There may be candlelight vigils, messages of support for the family, and a funeral service attended by hundreds of fellow police brothers and sisters.
The death and its aftershocks serve as a reminder of the risks and sacrifices those in uniform face every day and the loss is felt by everyone in the community.
But, sometimes it only takes a single message from a loved-one to bring home the full impact of the loss.
Kelly Gibbons wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to her father, the late Woburn Police Officer Jack Gibbons III: "I got better at finding my shoes, but... I still tend to make a mess. Wish you were here."
That message was dated Feb. 29, 2012—13 years since Jack Gibbons died of a heart attack while on duty May 4, 1999.
Jack Gibbons III came from a long line of public safety officials. His father, also named Jack, has retired from the Woburn Police force. His brothers, Lt. Joe and Officer Mark, are currently on the department, and another brother, Ron, is a retired Woburn Fire lieutenant.
Jack was a 14-year veteran of the Woburn Police Department when he died in 1999. He was a noted artist, and his forensic art skills were used by several police departments in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This St. Patrick's Day, the Gibbons family and friends will join together to honor Officer Jack Gibbons and Officer Jack Maguire, who was killed in the line of duty in 2010.
Both men are memorialized at the State House's tribute to fallen law enforcement officers. This St. Patrick's Day, the family hopes to raise money to help keep that monument maintained.
"I miss my brother... a lot," said Susan Gibbons-Flood. "He was a kind, gentle and funny soul that wanted to help people. And he did, a lot of people."
"It's strange, but that is the same desciption people would give you of Jack Maguire," she added. "I will never forget either one of them."
The State House wall, which is maintained by the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation, serves as a reminder to those lost while protecting others.
"It's a place where their kids can see that their dads are remembered and honored for their sacrifice," said Gibbons-Flood. "I guess I feel like it's something I can do for my big brother, and that's important to me."
Active Facebook pages are maintained for both Jacks—Gibbons and Maguire. While Jack Maguire's death is more recent, with many more posts, the Jack Gibbons page is a poignant reminder of one family's loss:
"I know you are OK, because you have shown me you are many times. But, I need to hear it again, so you know what to do. Please take care of Jack [Maguire] and his family and continue to look over all of us, especially your brothers." — Susan Gibbons-Flood (sister)
"I'm know you greeted another 'brother' with open arms tonight. I hope you both are at peace... Keep an eye out on the rest of them down here." — Christy Nickerson (niece)
The St. Paddy's Day party in honor of Officers Gibbons and Maguire will be held at the Sons of Italy, 168 Lexington St., on Saturday, March 17. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be bought at the door or by email at email@example.com. There will be a DJ, cash bar, silent auction, raffles and light refreshments.