AS I'M ABOUT to drift off to sleep, I hear the news anchor relay that once again a police officer, this time a Maryland state trooper, has been involved in a shooting in the District of Columbia.
How many police have been shot in the recent past? Too many.
The next morning as I scan the paper, bleary-eyed and preparing to survive the stresses of the day, I see a small insert reporting that the officer shot the previous evening was pronounced dead not much later in a D.C. hospital. How can police officers choose to do this job? To leave home with the very real possibility that they will not survive the shift to recount the day or plan the next.
Later, as I drive from one school to another, I hear the news report that Cpl. Ed Toatley was the victim. Ed Toatley? Ed Toatley? I know this name. It can't be the Ed Toatley I taught during my 10 years at Dundalk Senior High.
I'm caught in the grip of knowing, of getting home to my study to pore through yearbooks and discover if this is the Ed I know -- the quiet, tall, lanky, good-looking, respectful, black student who sat in the rear of one of my 11th-grade college-prep English classes in Room 218.
I catch a news report that "no picture will be released due to the sensitive nature of the undercover work in which Toatley is involved."
That evening, as I arrive home, I pull the old DHS yearbooks off the shelf and scan them starting with 1983, working backward. After reviewing several without results, I find the one I dread seeing. There, with an easy smile, is Ed Toatley.
Next to his name I read his entry: physical therapy (why didn't he pursue that?), football, WDSH radio staff. None of this I recall about him, only his smile and his cooperative nature.
Days later, I leave for work heading west on Argonne Drive to 39th Street. I hear the traffic reports that Charles Street is a congregating place for the hundreds of police cars that will line their way to the cathedral for the funeral. I sit in traffic as long as I can bear, and then with a sudden urgency, I make a quick U-turn and head in the opposite direction.
Should I have made plans to attend the funeral? Should I, along with the thousands of others gathered for the same purpose, have tried to tell his family what a good kid he was? Should I write a note to Inez Toatley to express my condolences and tell her what I remember of Ed, the student? No indication or memory of a brave risk-taker, of a profession seeking out the dangerous undercover police work that claimed his life.
Determined to pay my respects, I head home where some vestige of Ed still remains. Pulling open the file cabinet that stores all evidence of my 15 years of classroom teaching, I find the grade book that contains Ed's stats. I sit on the steps and turn the pages of alphabetical class lists.
There in a long list of names, some of whom I distinctly recall, others I cannot place at all, I find his name, Edward M. Toatley. I scan the grades and their corresponding assignments. Edward M. Toatley, final grade for English 11, "B."
Edward M. Toatley, final grade for life, "Incomplete."
Paula Simon is the coordinator of secondary English and reading, Baltimore County Public Schools.