By Anna Lothson
There was never a question in Matthew Ewert's mind that he'd be a police officer.
On July 20, about 1,000 miles away from Oak Park, where he made that decision, the reason for his career path was reaffirmed.
Ewert, 29, is a police officer in Aurora, Colo., who grew up in Oak Park and graduated from OPRF. He moved to Colorado for skiing and school, and eight years ago he joined the force. It was there he trained for the Direct Action Response Team, a unit whose members can only hope they'll never have to use the skills they learn.
Shortly after midnight on July 20, Ewert's training came into play.
Ewert can't sum up the moments after the calls flooded in and police arrived on the scene after getting word of the shootings that just occurred. He's not allowed to talk about the details of the case, but like so many across the nation, he finds it hard to grasp what happened that summer night.
"It's been pretty hectic," he said in a recent phone interview. "I've had a really hard time figuring out how to describe the situation. It's the worst thing I've experienced."
What he can say? He's proud to be part of a team of officers equipped to help. Most importantly, though, the experience reminded him why he's in this line of work.
"It absolutely brings us closer together," he said. "I couldn't even give you a total number of hours working those extra weeks."
Back in Oak Park, his father Tom Ewert remembers when he first heard of the shooting. He initially cringed at the thought of his son joining such a dangerous profession but has always proudly supported his decision.
Tom wasn't watching the news the morning after, but when a family friend called, he flipped it on.
"I said, 'What are you taking about?' I turned on the TV to find out. And there he was."
Tom said he was happy his daughter-in-law, an emergency room doctor at an area hospital, wasn't on duty that night. And though he and his wife Grace worry a lot about the nature of their son's job, they trusted he was safe when they got that reassuring phone call.
"Pretty much he told us to stop watching [the news]," Tom said. "He told us some of the things going on. … He said it was just not worth it to keep watching."
Matthew said he doesn't like to worry his parents and admits he can't fully understand the nature of his parents' fears since he's not a father yet. Still, he's happy with where his job has taken him.
"Not many people who go to work can say that," he said. "Every day, I love my job."
Now into the fall, Matthew said the Aurora community is moving forward and the his and his wife's schedules are back to normal — or as normal as possible for their professions.
"I can't say it's really changed that much," Matthew said. "I suit up, go to work. People call and we go to the call."