LUMBERTON — One year, nine months and 27 days after her husband, a Lumberton police officer, was shot and killed, Lametria Goodson says time does not heal all wounds.
“You just find more creative ways to get through your days. You have to take it one day at a time, seriously, one day at a time,” she said.
Goodson took on Wednesday by joining about 100 others at Robeson Community College to unveil a new granite monument inscribed with the names of fallen officers. Ending the list is Jeremiah Goodson, who was killed on July 17, 2012, when he was driving while off-duty on Fayetteville Road and stopped to try to make an arrest.
The unveiling was part of the Robeson County Executive Law Enforcement Officers’ Association’s 22nd annual Memorial Service. In attendance were locals officials, law enforcement officers and the friends and families of the officers being honored, including Goodson’s family and the family of Arthur Oxendine, who was killed in a hit-and-run accident on Oct. 1, 1993.
“It’s like reliving it all over again. I appreciate everybody coming out and showing their support but it’s an emotional roller coaster. It is, but I’m very thankful,” said Goodson, who was accompanied by her daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, cousin and father-in-law.
The monument replaces a similar one too small for the growing list of names it held, 15 names stretching back to 1899. It sits at the front of the Law Enforcement Training Building, near where Goodson is buried.
“I can’t stand here today at this place and not recall where we all were July two years ago, to the right and behind us at Gardens of Faith cemetery,” said District Attorney Johnson Britt, the ceremony’s guest speaker.
Although all fallen officers were honored at the ceremony, Goodson was on many minds.
“Let me tell you what I’m thinking about: nobody but him — Jeremiah Goodson and his family,” said Lumberton Police Chief Michael McNeill. “… It could have been me, it could have been any one of my officers around here. It could have been any of us.”
Lt. Bruce Meares, the president of the officers’ association, said he had long been thinking of what to say to the families present at Wednesday’s ceremony.
“… You stop and think about what all (the officers) gave. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for us, the citizens. We can put up a monument for them, we can do a lot of things, but we can’t take that hurt away. That hurt is always going to be there,” he said.
McNeill called the monument “a tribute to the families.”
“It’s just something they can hold on to; it’s a tangible thing,” he said. “A lot of loved ones might not be here physically, but spiritually they’re here.”
There’s space for two or three more names on the monument, but McNeill says he hopes no name is engraved under Officer Goodson’s.
“We left a little bit of room on there, but let me tell you something, we don’t want to add any more names to it,” he said.
Lametria Goodson said the monument’s location in front of the Law Enforcement Training building is apt — her husband spent a lot of time there.
“It means a lot that the students can walk by, or sit and watch and look at the names,” Goodson said.
The spot is also appropriate given her husband’s passion for working with the youth, or as she says he called them, “the babies.”
“That’s why he did so much work at Lumberton High School,” she said. “He knew to start with the kids first … they won’t stray from positive things.”’
For Goodson, the monument is a step in the right direction towards honoring her husband and other officers who have been killed while doing their jobs.
“We’re getting there,” she said. “Because I’m biased, because it’s my husband, it’s never going to be perfect. But I’m appreciative of everything.”
Visiting the monument may even become a family tradition.
“I’ll make sure I bring the babies by and make sure they see — and stand on the monument, because that’s what they’re going to do, stand on the monument,” she said, breaking the morning’s somber mood with a laugh.
But Goodson said what’s most important is that Robesonians not forget her husband, or the others who went before him. That theme was echoed throughout the morning — never forget.
“Those remembrances that we hold for the individuals whose names are inscribed, those are things we can’t see and we can’t touch, but we can feel them in our hearts,” Britt said. “As long as those feelings are there, they’ll never be forgotten.”