Blue lights bleed

By Billie Johnson

Last weekend, I could feel myself coming down with another mid-life crisis, so I headed to a car dealership.  While waiting as they searched their database, I had some time to browse Facebook on my phone. An alert zipped by. “Kerry Baxter is going to Blue Light Week.”  My pal Kerry also goes by Detective Sergeant Baxter. I clicked on “Blue Light Week” to see what it was.

“Replace your porch light with a blue light bulb for 1 week to honor all police officers that have fallen in the line of duty. These brave men and women have sacrificed everything for us so let’s show our support. For all that are invited please feel free to invite anyone you wish. Let’s spread the word!”

Simple enough.

The charming former jocks running the car dealership computers let me know that it’d take some time to see if what I was interested in was out there. They took my number and said they’d call me.

On my way home from the dealership, I needed to stop at the grocery store and I decided to go ahead and get a blue light bulb.  I don’t get to see my pal Kerry much, but last year when work had me in New England over a nine month stretch, I got to see her a lot. She was the first woman in New Hampshire to reach the rank of Sergeant, and is now a part of a detective unit investigating crimes against children and sexual assaults. She has been with the Mountain Bike Unit and Ceremonial Unit, and received the Medal of Valor, and a little over a year ago, she begrudgingly participated in an unforgettable Cow Suit Saturday with yours truly. (I still can’t believe I got her in a cow suit!)

We text a few times a week and talk a few times a month, but either of our schedules can alter that one way or another. She had been working homicides over the holidays, one involving a child. Uncannily she texted just as I was grabbing the blue light bulb.  She sent me a link to a New England news site: “Nashua mother faces murder charge in 3-year old’s death.”  They got their arrest.

Kerry can’t give me many details about her cases. After growing up with a mom who was a child protection worker, I know exactly the kind of depravity, senselessness and evil she sees in her job while I experience a little back pain and monotony with my cubicle privilege.  The control in her personal life makes up for her lack of control at work.

She irons all of her pants and dress shirts with razor sharp creases. She shovels perfect paths around her backyard for her dog to traverse after a snow storm, and her counters and medicine cabinets are pristine.  She doesn’t have ice cream and beer in the same day, and she works out at least two hours a day, not necessarily to stay fit for the job, but to channel everything into exhausting and mindless sets and repetitions.

I intended to put my blue bulb in my front porch light, but I’d need a ladder and tools and I had ten minutes to get to the brew pub to meet a friend.  The sun was setting and I didn’t want to waste moonlight by waiting for the next day, so I put the blue light at my side entrance which opens to my kitchen and basement. After I got all gussied up to go out, I headed downstairs to empty the cat litter—because with three cats I do this 17 times a day now—and I halted at the sight of the cobalt glow.

It was so solid and steady. When I see blue lights, they are usually flashing on a police car or lining a runway. There’s usually something about to happen, but outside my window just past dusk, nothing was happening. At least not in my driveway. But somewhere in this country, at any hour of the day, something is happening involving police officers.

I walked outside, took a blurry picture and sent it to my pal.

I’ve seen a few other blue lights at people’s houses this week, and while I can’t speak for the personal and specific reasons behind the others, I can tell you that my blue light bleeds into the black of night in honor of my buddy Detective Sergeant Kerry Baxter and the many other solid and selfless, service men and women who do what they do.

Billie Johnson of Pocatello holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree from Idaho State University. She works as an engineer, is an avid community volunteer, and maintains a blog about her adventures in a cow suit at