Elona Clark and Glenda Tucker share a connection as the mothers of fallen police officers. It’s a bond the two hold close to their hearts as they honor the memories of their sons.
Sunday, at 4 p.m., the two mothers will gather at the Memorial Gardens on the campus of the North Carolina Justice Academy in Salemburg, along with family and friends, and release blue and white balloons as a way of remembering the fallen men and women who have been killed in the line of duty. The balloons will be filled with messages of love and longing for those lives lost.
Both Clark and Tucker lost their sons in the line of duty. Clark’s son, Sean, was killed 10 years ago after responding to a domestic situation in an apartment complex in Charlotte. Tucker’s son, Donald, was killed in 1991 during an undercover drug operation.
“The balloon release is a way that we can honor not only my son, but the many others who have lost their life while on duty,” Clark said.
This year, Clark and her husband, commemorated the 10th anniversary of their son’s death. Sean Clark died April 1, 2001 after responding to a domestic situation with his partner Jeff Shelton. Just 34 years old at the time, Sean and his partner were preparing to leave the scene when approached by someone not involved in the original situation who pulled out a gun and shot the two men.
Both succumbed to their injuries in a matter of hours.
“Mrs. Tucker and I share a similar experience,” Clark added. “It’s a bond that no mother wants to share with anyone.”
Donald, who was 22 years old and a one year veteran of the Clinton Police Department, worked in the narcotics division. As part of an undercover drug operation with a multi-agency task force, Tucker was making his last purchase when he was robbed and murdered.
“My son was killed in a drug deal that went bad,” Glenda Tucker said.
November will mark the 26-year anniversary of Tucker’s death.
COPS, Concerns of Police Survivors, began nine years ago when a mother in Florida started releasing balloons in honor of remembering her son. Sunday, while balloons in the eastern part of the country will be released at 4 p.m., balloon releases will be held at the same time in Hawaii and the different time zones across the United States.
Last year was the first year Clark and Tucker joined together to remember their sons through the nationwide balloon release. While the crowd was small, Clark says she is hoping there will be more out this year.
“This ceremony is very meaningful,” Clark explained. “It has done a lot of good for our hearts to heal.”
Clark said that her son’s life isn’t the only life that was affected and matters. With incidents of police brutality and killings filling the news media, the mother of a fallen officer said it’s important to remember that all lives matter.
“I’m not saying that we don’t need the marches, but they need to be done peacefully,” Clark said. “People are putting our officers in these situations where they become scared and respond by shooting. I just can’t believe how people are responding today.”
Both Clark and Tucker’s killers were sentenced to life in prison.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.