In Police Week, APD’s Pew was my hero

Published 3:15 am Saturday, May 19, 2018

By R.A. Mathews

Plumes of dense, black smoke rose in the sky. Officer Nathan Pew of the Andalusia Police Department saw them from a distance.

“I grabbed my fire extinguisher!” he said. He clasped it as he raced his cruiser toward the smoke.

The fire had started in my Jeep parked at a shopping center. I was inside, but escaped safely. This vehicle was special—a present from my dad two decades ago. I treasured it. The engine had just been replaced, but wasn’t working right.

I watched the officer jump from his cruiser and run toward my SUV, flames leaping from the engine and spreading beneath it. There was no waiting. The fire department was in route, but a long row of vehicles stood inches from the flames. At any moment the fire could spread, setting off a chain reaction.

Officer Pew tried to douse the flames with his fire extinguisher, but the blaze was too strong. There was so much smoke I couldn’t see beyond my Jeep, but someone told me the fire had indeed spread to the next vehicle.

I realized the enormity of the situation. So did groups of emerging shoppers, who stayed close to the front wall of the shopping center. In fact, an auto mechanic with a fire extinguisher refused to go anywhere near the Jeep—flames beneath the vehicle were too close to the gas tank.

I watched with horror at the officer’s desperate attempts, wanting him to back away, certain the tank would explode and he’d be killed. Honestly, I could scarcely breathe.

Thankfully, before that happened, firemen arrived and quenched the flames.

This is National Police Week. We don’t really consider the peril these men and women face. It’s not just from criminals, there are many other dangers like this fire. And officers die. On Tuesday, President Trump spoke at a memorial service for fallen officers saying, “We will never forget our heroes.”

The need for heroes is not new. The first Hebrew police department in the Bible was some 4,000 years ago.

In Chapter 12 of Genesis, God calls Abraham to move from Iraq to the Promised Land, present-day Israel. If you think of Abraham as an old man with a staff, three sheep, and a foot-long beard, you’re in for a surprise.

Abraham journeys with Lot, his nephew. Eventually, the two part ways because their herds need more land. Lot settles beside the Jordan River near the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, while Abraham chooses land farther away.

In time, four allied kings—I call them the “Fierce Four”—ravage the region, winning one battle after another. They defeat all the “-ites”: the Rephaites, Zuzites, Emites, Horites, Amalekites, Amorites. Then they turn toward the Jordan.

Five kings, including the King of Sodom and the King of Gomorrah, march out to meet them. These five kings then draw their battle lines and are ready.

Apparently it didn’t take long—the Fierce Four chase the five kings and their men into the hills. The four then seize everything, including Lot and his possessions.

What happens next? Abraham goes after his nephew.

But what chance does Abraham have against the Fierce Four? It’s like this: Abraham had trained his own police force, 318 men. I am not making this up.

Abraham and his officers chase down the Fierce Four and defeat them, bringing Lot and all of Lot’s possessions back. As you can see, Abraham was hardly an old man with a staff and three sheep. He was a man of intense courage, determined to protect his own.

I witnessed that same courage in Officer Nathan Pew. A willingness to risk life and limb to protect his community. And I’m feeling his sacrifice intensely at this moment. The fire in my Jeep could have gone differently; I know I could be attending a funeral this week.

I encourage you to salute your brave police officers today. Perhaps if you’re known to your police department, you could bake a pie. If you aren’t, drop off a card with a note of appreciation. Decide on something to celebrate National Police Week.

Remember the heroes who stand willing to sacrifice their lives.


© 2018 R.A. Mathews The Rev. Mathews is the author of “Reaching to God: Great Truths from the Bible.”