Today marks the 15th anniversary of the funeral of Eddie Polec. He was the Cardinal Dougherty High School senior who was beaten mercilessly by a gang of baseball-bat-wielding thugs on Nov. 11th, 1994, on the steps of St. Cecilia - the Fox Chase Catholic church where he'd served as an altar boy. He died the next day of his brutal injuries. His funeral, four days later, was so crowded with mourners that the neighborhood around St. Cecilia's was jammed for hours.
I could recount the whole sad and terrible story here, but I'll link, instead, to this piece, published in the Northeast Times on the 10th anniversary of Eddie's passing.
For many of us, though, no recap is needed. We recall vividly how terribly Eddie's vicious murder rocked the city. Not just for the fact that it was a gang of marauding suburban teens who inflicted the blows that killed him. But because Philadelphia's 9-1-1 system failed Eddie so completely that night.
And yet in the awful aftermath of Eddie's death we also witnessed moments of incredible grace as his wonderful family - parents John and Kathy and siblings Billy and Christy - handled their shock and sorrow with extraordinary dignity and resolve. They repeatedly called for calm, urging Eddie's grieving friends and the community at large to honor Eddie's memory by not partaking in the brand of violence that had torn him from them. And they refused to turn the teen's death into a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the city. Instead, the Polecs pushed for wholesale changes in the 9-1-1 system.
I've reached out over the last few weeks to John and Kathy Polec, to ask how their family has fared in the last 15 years. They've not responded to requests for an interview.
So I'd like to take this opportunity to tell them what I would've told them, face to face, if I'd had the chance:
That I'm still so sorry for their loss. That I know I'm not alone in saying I remain inspired by the courage and character they exhibited during a time of unimaginable heartbreak.