Guest Opinion: Officer’s tribute inspiring, death troubling

I witnessed a very bone-chilling, saddening, and depressing moment in our state’s history. Around 30 minutes of my life that I will never get back waiting in a line for a brief time that I will treasure forever.
It was to honor a Missouri State Highway Patrol Officer who died while patrolling floodwaters in northwest Missouri in August. Missouri Trooper Fred Guthrie Jr., a father of 3 children, 46-year-old husband, and fearless civil servant of our great state was laid to rest in his home town of Knob Noster. It was today (Dec. 14) that Missouri, his family, and citizens paid respect and honor to a man who went above and beyond his duty for our state, its citizens, flooded farmers and residents of Holt County during a man-made flooding disaster.
Respect and honor was paid by Gov. Jay Nixon with all flags to be flown at half-staff. I did not know Officer Guthrie, nor his family, nor his dedication to his job, but today I saw a glimpse of a man’s life.
I was late going to the city Christmas shopping and met a road block on four-lane Highway 13 out of Richmond to Lexington. I was stopped on the on-ramp by a sheriff’s deputy of the county. He was standing out of his patrol car and had his hand on his heart. I looked down the road and saw in the mist and fog during this cloudy day a perfect shot of four miles of law enforcement cars led by a fleet of highway and city patrol motorcycles.
Their bright emergency lights glistened off the low-lying clouds for miles. The procession moved by as they blocked all traffic and took up both lanes with the motorcade of cycles, hearse, limousines, family and an uncountable number of highway patrol from Missouri and many other Midwest states, county sheriffs, city cops from as far as St Louis and Memphis. he line was as far as you could see.
I stepped from my car, leaned on the side and placed my hand over my heart as the motorcade went by, much like the officer in front of me. They all awkwardly slowed down and respectfully crossed the Missouri River bridge just in front of me. Just feet from the road I could see the upset yet somber faces of those passing.
Officer Guthrie disappeared just this Aug. 1 when he and his dog, Reed, were swept away by the horrific flooding on the Missouri River in Holt County. Tragically, his body was never found to be returned to the family and laid to rest in the family plot. He will be remembered in that cemetery with a stone and casket with Reed’s ashes, his mementos, his official uniform and remembrances. On Sept. 28, the same day the Army Corps of Engineers opened the last stretch of Missouri River for barge traffic, officer Guthrie was declared dead.
For the rest of the afternoon and evening while waiting in lines at the mall to park, shop and check out I was mostly thinking of those 30 minutes watching one of the most heart-breaking moments pass by. Farms flooded, homes, property, crops gone and now a life tragically lost, all thanks to the flood of 2011.
I might be going too far … but is the blood of officer Guthrie and all those that were in danger on the hands of the Army Corps of Engineers? Who is responsible when all is said and done? Those three children with no father, this state’s river and all its destroyed lands, and no one left saying, “Let’s change this right now so it will never happen again” … I guess this really hit home today when I saw that hearse, hundreds of patrol cars and the Holt Country rescue squad all brake and slowly cross the Mighty Mo. Today my hate for the planning to fail or failing to plan on those controlling the river reached a boiling point. I guess we can look back and say it happened, see the damage, and remember a life lost. I just can’t believe anyone who wants to let the mismanagement continue can sleep at night with those beliefs.
We must be advocates, we must educate and we must do what we can to protect our family, property, environment, and agriculture.

– Nathan White, president, Ray County Farm Bureau

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