After Natasha Santiago, a 7 year old girl with Downs Syndrome, was horrifically abused by her mother and her mother's low life boyfriend, Hartford Police Lieutenant James Bernier had to do something beyond his capacity as a police officer:
Natasha was coming home from the hospital after Easter, Bernier found out. And yes, there was something that would make her life easier: a ramp, so the girl, who uses a wheelchair, could get in and out of the house. Bernier began fundraising, asking fellow officers to chip in for materials. He turned to his brother-in-law, a carpenter who has years of experience making homes accessible for the handicapped. Bernier's brother-in-law quickly drew up a design, and tapped a fellow carpenter to help. The crew went to Hartford Lumber to buy the wood, but when the company found out who the project was for, refused to take payment. On Saturday, when he could have spent opening day of the fishing season on the water with his 5-year old son, Bernier arrived in front of Natasha's foster home before 7 a.m. So did his brother-in-law, his brother-in-law's assistant, and four fellow police officers who hadn't even worked on Natasha's case. One of them had to use up a personal vacation day to be there. By 3:15 p.m., they had finished the ramp."It's the right thing to do," said Sgt. Martin Miller, when asked why he was spending his day away from his wife and 5-week-old daughter, but with a handful of fellow police officers, constructing a ramp in preparation for the homecoming of a child he'd never met."It was the right decision," said Natasha's new parents, who have asked not to be identified, when asked why they took Natasha and her three siblings into their home - already full with soccer trophies and mementoes marking the achievements of their 10- and 16-year old sons."It was just the right thing," Bernier said.
I hope the child, the adopting family and the police involved in this story find peace and healing. There is so much wrong in the world and guys like Bernier see it everyday. Unlike the project you didn't finish, or the call you didn't return, work like this goes home with you.
We get the idea from books and movies that evil is some special form of malevolent intelligence - which may be true on some universal level. But ask any beat cop and he'll tell you that on a practical level there is nothing special or intelligent about the abuse of a 7 year old girl, it's tragically mundane. By giving of themselves Bernier, his friends and the kind folks at Hartford Lumber opposed this mundane evil with plain old grace, which is the antidote for evil on any level.