How do you make sense out of this?
Cradled by Stratham, Portsmouth, North Hampton and Rye, nestled against Great Bay and split in half by Interstate 95, Greenland epitomizes the iconic New Hampshire blended community.
Rooted in more than two centuries of proud history and punctuated with idyllic rural landscapes, Greenland also provides modern necessities of life and easy access to big cities, international transportation hubs and the sea. It’s the kind of busy but peaceful town where nothing much ever happens.
That is until Thursday’s tragic events that ended in the shooting death of beloved Police Chief Michael Maloney.
Because it is Greenland, because nothing like it has ever happened anywhere nearby, Maloney’s murder and the wounding of four fellow police officers during an attempted drug bust hits especially hard. These kinds of things aren’t supposed to happen in places like Greenland, where the sense of community is strong and respect for fellow citizens is powerful.
But as we have been taught before, New Hampshire’s small towns are not immune to these senseless tragedies. During the past 28 years, six law enforcement officers have lost their lives in Epson, Gilford, Franconia, Colebrook and now Greenland.
While circumstances were different, the grim results were the same. Brave men died protecting the public’s safety, leaving families without husbands and fathers, communities without mentors and friends.
While the sordid details of the incident are still being sorted out, the assailant who fired the shots at Maloney and Detectives Gregory Turner of Dover, Eric Kulberg of the University of New Hampshire, Scott Kukesh of Newmarket and Jeremiah Murphy of Rochester was well known to police, having previously faced drug and domestic violence charges. He was much like the countless many other suspects police deal with day-in and day-out, a fact that underscores just how dangerous a job it is to be a police officer.
While it serves as little comfort for Maloney’s friends and family, it’s fortunate the death toll wasn’t greater, the pain and loss spread even further.
The next several months will be difficult ones for Greenland residents and the law enforcement community, as first they grieve and then they struggle to heal. For some, the pain will never completely go away. The shock and senselessness of the crime will be simply too overwhelming to dismiss.
But each will draw strength from each other and move forward one day at a time. Their sense of community will grow even stronger.
For hundreds of other New Hampshire police officers, the work goes on. Every day, they put their lives on the line to ensure the Granite State is one of the safest places to live. They selflessly put themselves in harm’s way whether it’s a drug bust, domestic disturbance or a traffic stop. All carry the risk of exploding into violence and death.
It’s a testament to the outstanding job performed by police officers like Michael Maloney and his colleagues that most of us take for granted our sense of personal safety. That luxury comes at a very high price.