I hate that I feel led to write this.  I can’t believe that I’ve even been through these events to allow me to write this.  Clinton, MO.  My hometown – born and raised.  BROKEN.

Clinton, Missouri is sweet city in the middle of the United States.  Welcome to the land of “ope”, waving at about everyone you meet while driving, and sweet tea, friends.  Clinton has around 9,000 citizens and we have an adorable historic square with tons of amazing shops.  Clinton is right by Truman Lake and Lake of the Ozarks – so, we see a ton of trucks pulling campers or boats.  We have a huge celebration for the Fourth of July and love our livestock.  Everywhere you look, you will pretty much see an American flag flying proudly.  Bonfires and ‘gravel traveling’ are a way of life here.  Our Mayberry.

There is something so comforting about knowing everyone that you see in Walmart.  You can’t get that comfort in a big city that you are just moving to.  You just can’t.  Just the other day, I was driving and noticed that there were 6 people just standing outside of the Post Office just chatting.  Clinton is the type of town that if you make a mistake… you should probably tell your parents immediately because otherwise someone else will – of course, I’ve only heard this from a friend!  HA!

Tayler and I decided to quit renting and purchase a home.  Here’s the dilemma… Tayler works in Lenexa, KS (about an hour and 15 minutes from our hometown).  Yes, we could’ve moved to Lenexa or a surrounding area.  However, we couldn’t imagine leaving Clinton.  We had already moved to Springfield for college but missed Clinton.  We ended up back in Clinton and Tayler drove to Warrensburg (about 40 minutes from Clinton) for school and baseball for 3 years.

Clinton is home.

We decided to narrow our search to only Clinton and found the perfect home.  We got the keys on August 1, 2017 and I was only 6 weeks away from my due date.  My focus was completely on finishing our home.  We got everything painted and we started staying at our new home on Saturday, August 5th.

On Sunday, we worked hard to be sure that we were getting everything put away.  After a crazy long day, we laid down in bed.  Before long, we heard a ton of sirens.  This is not normal in our town.  A friend texted me and told me that she heard that there was an officer involved shooting.  We didn’t go to sleep for a very long time because we started thinking about and praying for all of the officers that we graduated with, went to church with, are related to, or just know from the community.

The next morning, I woke up to the news that it was Officer Gary Lee Michael Jr. that was shot and, unfortunately, killed on a routine traffic stop.

This was completely surreal to me.  How could this be?  Not in Clinton.  No way.

Our small community banded together and helped in any way possible to find his killer.  Our community delivered food, drinks, and offered assistance by calling in suspicious activity.  We all came together for a candlelight vigil, a visitation, and his funeral.  Our community lined the streets to show their support for his family when they brought his body back to Clinton and again on the procession to the cemetery after the funeral.  Blue tape was placed on vehicles, store windows, and the signs were changed to show the support for our police.

News trucks everywhere.  Cops from surrounding areas patrolling for our officers while they searched for the killer.  The police presence in our town was STRONG until he was finally caught.

Our town was just so much busier than normal.  Clinton was plastered all over the news stations.  I couldn’t get on any social media platform without seeing an interview about the shooting.

It took a very long time to get anywhere close to a normalcy back in our town.  But, something was just different.  How could people hate our cops?  This city is protected by these men and women and now people are trying to kill them?  This happens in the big cities.  Not Clinton.

I was so frustrated that we had purchased a home in Clinton because I didn’t want to think twice before running into Walmart with Vandy at night.  We didn’t want to worry about the kids at Vandy’s school.  We wanted to feel safe.  This incident shattered that for us.

We moved forward.  Buying a lunch or dinner for an officer and his/her family when we would see the opportunity, thanking an officer when we saw them, wearing our ‘Back the Blue’ shirts every chance we get.

March 6th, 2018.  7 months later.  Tayler and I are sitting exactly where I am right now, working on my blog.  I hear some type of emergency vehicle go by FAST.  I jumped on Facebook to see if I saw anything about a wreck or anything… nope.  My mom then called me to let me know that there was a pretty bad situation and there were at least 3 officers shot – from what she was told.

Tayler and I, again, started thinking and praying for all of the officers.  We stayed up basically all night just looking for updates and praying.  The next morning, I woke up to the news that there were, indeed, 3 officers shot.  Officer Nathan Bettencourt and Officer Nicholas Kasper were both injured and Officer Christopher “Ryan” Morton was killed.  I will not go into details about what happened because there is still a full investigation going on and I do not want to misspeak on what happened.

Again, our community came together for a candle light vigil, visitation, and Ryan’s funeral.  Our community lined the streets to show his family our appreciation.  Sound familiar?

The news trucks all came back – interviewing anyone that they could.  Surrounding area police patrolling our little city while our officers mourned.  But then, it all stopped.  The news trucks all left, our cops went back to patrolling, and our lives moved on.

It’s different now.  It’s so quiet and so loud – all at the same time.  It is just so strange.  I, obviously, don’t know if everyone feels like this.  For me, it feels like a piece of Clinton is missing.  Security.  Safety.  Home.

How do you truly move past something like this?

I don’t think we do.  I believe that we will keep Gary and Ryan’s memories with us while we heal and forever in our little community.  Now, we see a lot less red, white, and blue flags flying and a lot more black, white, and thin blue line flags.  You see more and more people supporting our officers.

But, that feeling won’t go away.  Have you ever been sitting on the edge of your chair and you feel like you can’t fully relax?  That’s the feeling that I have constantly.  I just feel like our protectors are being senselessly murdered for absolutely no reason.  Gary and Ryan were both veterans and served our country – they definitely didn’t deserve to die just doing their best to protect little ol’ Clinton, MO.

We’ve watched so many communities and businesses hold fundraisers for our fallen and injured officers, I’ve read hundreds of messages on Facebook from those praying for our community, and I’ve watched the media.  Unfortunately, most of what I saw on the media was so far from the truth.  It breaks my heart to watch the news and hear more inaccurate information that paints our town as a horrible place.  Please know that Clinton is great place to live, unfortunately, that doesn’t make for good news…

Clinton will move forward.  However, I can promise you that I (and most of the community) will NOT forget what happened.  I pray that we continue to stay strong.  Be vigilant, be thoughtful. Try to realize all of the good that is in this community and try to think of solutions for the issues.  Don’t complain about an issue until you try to solve it.

We may have been shaken to our core, but we are not broken.  We will come back from this and I pray that we come back better and stronger than before. I still believe this is the best community to raise our daughter in and I have no intentions of leaving our sweet community.

I’m so proud to be from Clinton, Missouri.

I sat down at my computer fully planning on writing a completely different post, however, here we are.  I just feel like this needs to be shared.

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All photos in this post are by my mom or Lindsey Lou Photography.

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