COVINGTON - Here it is. The place where his cousin fell.
Chris Forthuber leans against the railing along the pedestrian walkway. In the water below, a search boat slowly circles, but Mr. Forthuber's attention is drawn instead to the steel and concrete of the bridge.
They look utterly unforgiving. It is easy to see how a police officer chasing a suspect might climb onto the concrete barrier along the road and slip as he leaped toward the walkway.
Between the barrier and the walkway is a gap of about 3 feet. It is through this gap that Officer Mike Partin apparently plunged. Mr. Forthuber looks down. Suspended some 15 feet below - almost directly between the concrete and the walkway - is a girder about a foot and a half wide. It's open on top, like a three-sided box, and we can see beer cans and leaves inside.
Mr. Forthuber cannot see how his cousin missed the girder.
What if ...
If he hadn't missed it, of course, our week would be entirely different. We would note Mr. Partin's rescue from the cradle of steel, breathe a sigh of relief and go on with our busy lives.
No pausing at the Covington memorial, where familes are now leaving flowers for an officer they didn't know.
No black stripes on police badges. No flags flying half-staff. And especially, no reflecting on the risks taken daily by men and women who can never swear they'll make it home.
I'll admit, shamefully, that my own complacency survived even the deaths of two officers in Cincinnati last month. I felt for their families and cringed at the brutal, senseless nature of their deaths. But the frightening duality of our world didn't strike me until I stood on that bridge Monday, staring at the girder Mike Partin missed.
This is reality.
While we eat dinner, an officer in one of our cities is undoubtedly serving an arrest warrant like the one that led to the deaths in Cincinnati. While we are driving to work, somewhere an officer is knocking on a suspect's door, uncertain what danger lurks behind it.
And at 2:30 a.m., while we sleep, a 25-year-old newlywed who loved line dancing could be free-falling between concrete and steel.
''You don't think about them putting their lives on the line . . . until they do,'' said Evelyn Eldred of Covington.
She and her husband, James, went to the memorial Monday with flowers and a note: ''I never knew you, but goodbye, brave soldier.'' As the day progressed, the pile of flowers and cards grew.
Toni James of Ludlow brought a single red rose. ''Officer Mike - Although I didn't know you, I thank you for your service and protection. I'll be praying for peace for your family in their great loss.''
Grim time for families
At lunchtime, Gina Stanley walked the few blocks from her office to the memorial and stood quietly, reading. Her face was pale, eyes red. All weekend, she said, she'd been wanting to cry. Had cried. Her husband, Cody Stanley, is a Covington police officer. Like others around Northern Kentucky, he spent part of his off-duty hours Sunday helping with the search for Officer Partin.
The officers are talking about donating their overtime pay to his family, Mrs. Stanley says.
She and her husband have two small children. If our reckoning with reality comes only occasionally, theirs is the houseguest who never leaves.
''Anything can happen. Anything,'' Mrs. Stanley says.
In honor of Mike Partin, let us recognize this truth. Let us embrace it. For if we are free tomorrow to go about our busy lives, it is public servants like him who make us so.
Thank you, Officer Partin. You will not be forgotten.
Officer's family grieves at river
Bridge gap has a purpose
Karen Samples is The Enquirer's Kentucky columnist. Her column appears on Sundays and Thursdays in The Kentucky Enquirer. She can be reached at 578-5584 or email
her at email@example.com