The package of mail arrived on Staten Island last week, cards and letters mostly, all offering their condolences and praising the short, noble life of Officer Russel Timoshenko.
One item, though, stood out: two thin aluminum wrist bands, each emblazoned with the young face of the rookie cop, as well as his badge number and his EOW.
That's law enforcement talk for "end of watch," and in this case, it's July 14, the day Timoshenko, 23, died, five days after he was shot during a car stop in Brooklyn. Timoshenko's partner, Herman Yan, was also shot, but his vest saved his life. As Timoshenko lay unconscious on a respirator, police tracked down and arrested three suspects - two of them hiding in the woods of Pennsylvania.
Timoshenko's mother, her grief as raw now as it was then, was brought to tears at the sight of the bands, an emotion as common to her now as breathing.
"It's very nice of him," says Tatyana Timoshenko in an interview. "I'm very appreciative. Tell him, 'Thank you.'"
"Him" is Mike Pratt, and when he got word, in his home outside of Omaha, Neb., of all places, of Tatyana Timoshenko's gratitude, he nearly lost it.
"Honestly, it's the least I could do," Pratt says softly. "I'm glad she liked them. I didn't want to call her. I don't ever call the parents. It's a time when they just need to heal. They don't need someone else's opinion, even if it's from someone who knows exactly how they feel."
Pratt, 58, lost his son, Omaha Officer Tye Pratt, in 2003, shot in the head chasing a gang member. Tye Pratt, 30, the father of two young daughters, also lingered for days before he died.
Grief comes with no handbook, no instructions about what is right and what is wrong. For Mike Pratt, grief was nearly a year of lying in an abyss.
"I couldn't even get out of bed," he remembers. "When one of the most important things in the world is taken from you, nothing matters to you. Nothing. For 10 months, I couldn't do anything constructive."
But life does go on, and for Mike Pratt life took a step toward healing when his son's colleagues gave him and his wife, Rita, a wrist band in honor of Tye. It was heartfelt, Mike Pratt remembers, but basic.
He wanted something more personal for his son's memory, and from that came Tye Bands. They are sold for $30 on the Internet - tyeband .com - with profits beyond expenses earmarked for charity and a scholarship fund in their son's name.
At first, Mike Pratt admits, Tye Bands was an entirely self-centered endeavor. He recalls his son eerily asking him days before he was shot if his dad would remember him.
"I said, 'Why, is something wrong?'" Pratt recalls. "And he said, 'No - but you never know.' I think God told him to say goodbye to his dad. So when I started Tye Bands I was doing it for him. I still do it for him, but now it's also to honor all the other officers who die."
In Nebraska, Pratt says, about 1,000 officers wear his son's band in his honor. Bands honoring more than 100 other police officers and soldiers slain in the line of duty have turned one father's coping mechanism into something much bigger.
Most Tye Bands, he says, start with a phone call or e-mail from the stricken police department.
Timoshenko's death, Pratt says, generated a blizzard of both calls and e-mails from police officers and those stunned by the homicide.
"They're all bad," Pratt says, "but this was such a tragic killing. He was so young, and it was very similar to what happened to Tye."
Ideally, Pratt says, the Timoshenko Tye Band will be something his colleagues at the 71st Precinct want to wear.
More important, he says, is that Timoshenko's family derives some comfort, however small, out of knowing Omaha and Brooklyn are not as far apart as the 1,250 miles of land that separates them.
"My dream is that every law enforcement officer honors their hero," says Pratt, who does all of the work on the bands himself. "If they wear a Tye band, they would do that, and they would honor Tye as well. But if Timoshenko's parents like the band, it's a good day. It's like yesterday, when Tye died, so I know what they're going through.
"Hopefully, this makes a bad thing a little better."
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