Monday, March 08, 2010
Remembering Vu Pham
The headline in The Toronto Star reads, Officer Dead After Shooting. 37 year old Constable Vu Pham, a 15 year veteran of the Ontario Provincial Police, died Monday afternoon, with his wife Heather, and three young sons by his side.
I was meeting with a colleague in my office Monday afternoon afternoon when my desk phone rang. I turned the ringer off, intent on focusing on the person I was with. My cell phone rang too and I ignored it; I could check for a message in a few moments, I thought. When the person left, I checked my computer and there was a two word email from my boss. "Call me," it said. I called--and that's when I heard that Vu had been shot in the head by a man whose car he had flagged down.
Vu is the adopted brother of Mike, one of our team of area managers, but 22 years ago, they were both just teenagers in the church we attend, Hillside Community Church, in Tottenham, and part of the youth group our kids were in and which we led. Constable Vu Pham was "Voofum," his nickname in the youth group.
Pastor Dan Thompson and his wife Terry, had adopted Vu when he arrived as a refugee from Vietnam, years before they came to pastor at our church after Paul's dad died in 1986. Vu kept his own surname; Pham, but he was as much a part of their family as if he was born into it. He stood out a bit; a raven black haired child, among three red headed children, but he was family.
The news hit our kids, especially Peter, hard. He turns 40 in a couple of months. He's three years older than Vu, but his 4 kids are in the age range of Vu's 3 boys. He could hardly get the words out through his grief, feeling for Heather and the terrible loss she and his boys face.
He remembered the weekend that Pastor Dan and Terry went away and asked him to come and stay with Vu for the weekend. Vu was a quiet kid, but Pete said that over that weekend they really connected.
Brenda's memory was of a banquet in the church basement, where Vu intended to pull her chair out slightly as a joke, but Brenda missed it completely and landed hard on the floor. He felt awful at the joke that went wrong and couldn't stop apologizing.
How can it be that 22 years later his life ended at the side of a quiet road in a rural community? This wasn't even the streets of a city.
But this isn't some nightmare from which we will wake up.
We don't know what spawned the series of events that led to that terrible moment on Monday morning. Vu didn't know when he began his day that it would be his last on earth.
We do know that he died doing his duty, serving his community in a job that could put him in harms way at any moment, with a police force whose motto is Safe Communities; a secure Ontario.
Vu was a hero. We honour his memory and give thanks for all of his fellow officers who daily put their lives on the line to keep us safe.
Our hearts go out to his wife, Heather, his boys, the Thompson family and his fellow officers. Our prayers are with them.
This article in the The Toronto Sun just sent to me by Susan, describes the man Vu was.