The whizzing and beeping sounds of the motorway traffic was consistent and loud. Jeriah closed both of his eyes and covered his ears with his hands. Sweat beads were running down his forehead and his tongue felt like sandpaper. It was overwhelming. Charlie patted Jeriah's head and her hands were left wet from the sweat. Jeriah screamed and forced his eyes to close as hard as he could, then the red and blue lights appeared behind their car.
Adam Klimek, a state trooper in South Carolina, has had plenty of odd days. From directing traffic to issuing citations to high-speed car chases, and accidents, Klimek was certainly familiar with the unexpected happenings. Like most police officers, Klimek has received plenty of negative attention from the Internet and bad stories about cops. But was he in the same basket as the other bad apples?
Just like every other morning, Klimek put on his assigned uniform. And just like every other morning, he gave thanks for waking up that day. Being a cop may be a dangerous job, but Klimek was proud that he was able to protect others. There have been times where Klimek was is fear for his life, and other days when he question whether or not he was in the right profession. But he never expected this call to come through to him.
If someone wants to join the police academy they must have a high school diploma, and more recently, a bachelor's degree. Klimek trained for three months to get into the police force. In the last 10 years, more than 1,500 police officers have been killed, and 129 of them were killed in just 2017 alone. But Klimek refused to let that stop him from pursuing his dreams.
It was a blazing hot day in September, and Klimek had just received a call about a woman stranded on Highway 170. It was peak traffic time and her SUV was stranded with no sign of help coming. But she sounded a bit more stressed than necessary. Klimek was the first to arrive on the scene. Was she running late? Did she need to get to a meeting? Was she hiding something from the police?
Just like so many others, Charlie Watkis was nervous around law enforcement, but the unbearable heat had made her desperate. She had no air-conditioning, no water, and no help. She was feeling a bit strange. She was in a potentially dangerous situation, and just made a call that could make things better for her, or much worse.
After George Zimmerman shot and killed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin in 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement was started. Zimmerman, who was a member of the neighborhood watch, followed Martin who was in the neighborhood visiting family. After a quarrel, Zimmerman killed Martin, who was unarmed. Zimmerman claimed self-defense, but unfortunately, this wasn't the first time racial profiling was at the root of a killing.
Because of social media, racial profiling has been brought to the forefront. Camera phones have become a protection and the Internet has become a place to expose the truth. Police officers are beginning to face a bit more scrutiny, but that doesn't mean the people have forgotten the past. Actually, television has become one of the largest platforms to educate the world on the ways that African-Americans struggle.
Shows on television have have finally brought the sad reality of mixed-race Americans to attention. "Dead White People," "Black-ish," "Atlanta," and Jordan Peele's Oscar-winning show "Get Out" have all proved that racism is still rooted deeply in society. Even though some of the headlines have gotten better, people are still nervous around police officers, regardless of the color of their skin. As usual, Klimek used caution while approaching the vehicle.
“The first thing my son did when he saw the blue lights was look at me [to say] ‘I think we’re in trouble,’” explained Watkis. Jeriah's hands were over his ears in an attempt to eliminate the unbearable noise of the traffic. He was agitated by the heat and there was no distracting him from it. “My son was sitting in the seat nearest the highway and was getting very antsy.” Klimek noticed immediately that there was something upsetting the boy besides the heat.
Klimek asked Jeriah and his mother if they wanted to sit in his air-conditioned SUV, but he also noticed that something was being hidden. “He recognized that my son has autism and was getting upset,” Charlie shared with Facebook in a thank-you post. Klimek then reached for his device so Jeriah could watch "Curious George," his favorite show. But Klimek's kindness didn't end there.
While Jeriah's mother was making the necessary phone calls, Klimek spoke to Jeriah. He continued to attempt to distract Jeriah from the overwhelming reality of their situations. “[Klimek] told him that he was officially a patrolman and to make sure that everyone in the car always buckles their seatbelt.” Charlie couldn't believe that Klimek was able to calm down her son. What was Klimek's secret?
Klimek is familiar with small children. Considering he's a father of three, Klimek prides himself on his ability to communicate with kids. It wasn't long before Klimek discovered that Jeriah loved movies and Netflix. “He even offered to let me son wear his official hat and gave him a badge,” explained Charlie. She was feeling extremely grateful for Klimek, but there's a sad reality that comes with this story.
“As a mother of children with special needs it is very difficult to get the world to understand what we deal with from day to day.” Thanks to Klimek, Charlie's faith has been restored in police officers after their heartfelt interaction. But Jeriah wanted something else for Klimek.
Charlie can't give Klimek enough praise. “He definitely saved the day. The funny part is that Jeriah had such a good time he didn’t want to get out of the car. He has a new friend.” In this day in age, the world is full of prejudice and hate, so it's nice to hear this story. “This was a very positive experience that I’d like to share.” Jeriah will never forget this experience with Klimek, that's for sure.