I’m sure that I was like many of the other 200-plus people who turned out on Saturday for the dedication of the Terry J. Emerick Memorial Highway.
That dedication took me back to the afternoon of May 25, 1994, when Terry died in the line of duty.
But it also brought back many more positive memories, those of the time that we spent around Terry.
I was among the members of the Vandalia Fire Department who responded to that accident on Interstate 70. Upon arriving at the scene, we learned that someone we knew and respected had died in that accident.
While working at the scene, I thought of what a tragic accident it was. But, at the same time, I remembered the last time that I saw Terry, and the other times that I had been around him.
I remembered talking with Terry just a few days before the accident in the office of the Fayette County sheriff, the place where he began his career in law enforcement.
I remember, as his wife, Connie, pointed out at Saturday’s ceremony, how it was obvious that Terry took a lot of pride in wearing the uniform of the Illinois Commerce Commission police.
I, too, remember that always-present smile on his face, how Terry seemed to be enjoying life, and how he wanted others to share in that joy.
Saturday’s ceremony also reminded me of meeting Terry when he and his twin brother, Larry, played on our Jaycees softball team when both were still students at Vandalia Community High School.
Though they were considerably younger, Terry and Larry fit perfectly into our group. They knew, like the rest of us, that we weren’t going to win very many games. For us, the focus was on simply having fun.
Many other people can better testify to Terry Emerick’s love for life and his dedication to serving others, especially since I didn’t see him much after those evenings on the softball diamond. In fact, it seems inadequate for someone like me to try to express how much Terry Emerick enriched the lives of all who came into contact with him.
Yet, even with the little contact that I did have with him, I can comprehend and appreciate the decision to dedicate a portion of Ill. Route 185 between Vandalia and Hillsboro as the Terry J. Emerick Memorial Highway.
He was an exemplary police officer. But more, he was an exemplary person.