EDMOND — Stepping up is usually not as easy as standing back.
But there are those who have stepped up when Jimmy Gwartney needed them — whether he realized it at the time or not.
And so, Gwartney, a 35-year-old Edmond police detective, deems it important to step up for others, including children.
One example takes Gwartney back to when he was 17 years old in the summer between his junior and senior year at Madill High School.
It was raining heavily early one morning, and Gwartney’s father was traveling to work on an old rural road. Another driver was traveling the opposite direction and was traveling too fast for the conditions, Gwartney said.
“The other driver departed the roadway and overcorrected trying to avoid a mailbox,” he said. “She returned back to the roadway and crossed the center line. The driver then collided nearly head-on with my father’s vehicle.”
Gwartney’s father was driving an older vehicle that was not equipped with air bags. Also, his dad’s truck operated off of propane and he had a large propane tank in the bed of the truck. Between the impact of the other vehicle and the momentum of his vehicle, the father was wedged between the steering wheel and the back part of his cab. The weight of his propane tank forced his seat around him, the son said.
Gwartney’s father died in the accident.
A lot of people stepped up for the teen. Among them was an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper who worked the collision.
“(He) was a personal friend and I was able to meet with him several times to discuss this collision,” Gwartney said.
“He spent several hours talking to me, helping me to understand what happened.”
When Gwartney became a police officer, a goal was to be trained in the field of collision reconstruction.
“Going through a tragic event like this allows you to have a greater understanding what the families you have come in contact with are going through and will be dealing with,” he said.
It was obviously a tough situation. But Gwartney learned from it so he could help others who are facing similar circumstances.
“This allows me to have empathy and a greater understanding for those I have to deliver the bad news that their loved one is no longer with us,” Gwartney said.
Developing that understanding traces to the trooper who stepped up to help Gwartney gain a better understanding of what happened.
A way to help others
Gwartney became president of the Edmond Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 136 in 2010. At that point, he became the coordinator for the FOP Cops and Kids program. Through the program, officers take the children of low-income families shopping in December.
“It helps make a difference in our community and allows us to give back to those who are in need,” Gwartney said. “Often these kids only see law enforcement in a negative light. This allows officers to interact with the kids and they can relate to us on a positive note.”
In December, the program helped 76 children who received $127.80 each to go shopping. It marked the 21st year Edmond had participated in the annual event. Gwartney said the Edmond Memorial High School softball and baseball teams helped with the benefit.
“It is awesome and makes everything worth it being able to give back to kids and helping fulfill their Christmas dreams,” Gwartney said. “The biggest thing I recall is when kids want to get presents for their parents and siblings. They put their needs, wants and wishes on the back burner. Often we have to make them buy stuff for them instead of others.”