Student Reflects On The Loss of Her Father After Visiting National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial

12-year-old Savanna Arruda recently traveled to Washington, D.C., with her classmates. While there, she visited the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The visit was very personal for Savanna, who lost her father, Deputy Michael Arruda, in the line of duty in 2004. His name appears on the memorial. She wrote an essay for her school paper, The Day Creek Howl, reflecting on her father’s life and allowed WorldStrides to share her story. The essay appears below: 

What comes to mind when you hear the word father? Making crafts for your dad on Father’s Day and hoping he likes it? Those unexpected daddy/daughter dates where you go out to breakfast or dinner? How about those cultural clichés, “Like father, like daughter?” Or playing a game of catch in the yard? All of these are experiences that are connected to the word “father.”

Some people will express that they didn’t grow up with a dad. They’ll explain that their parents got a divorce and their mom hasn’t been remarried and that they understand. But, few can say they have actually lost their biological father – coming home without the comfort most children have: a mom and a dad.

On June 9, 2004, Deputy Michael Arruda and other officers responded to the call of an armed man. Unfortunately, Arruda was shot in the neck by friendly fire. This means that he was shot by another officer by accident. It was at a Motel 6 on the side of a freeway in Hacienda Heights. This made it very difficult for the ambulance to help him. The paramedics weren’t able to reach him because there were so many cars in the way. He had to be carried down to a parked car outside and transported to the ambulance on the hood of that car. He died several days later, on June 15th.

Deputy Michael Arruda was my dad.

National Law Enforcement Memorial
Photo courtesy of Mark Gossage.

My mom got the call soon after. She had to be transported by helicopter, since the hospital was too far away to drive. When she got to the hospital, she immediately knew that my dad wouldn’t make it. The bullet had gone through one of the main arteries that supported his brain. He had lost too much blood to survive.

My mother, Lidia Arruda, still thinks about it to this day. She had planned to meet my dad several hours earlier, but it never happened. She wonders how she could have changed his course throughout that day so the accident could have been prevented. I still think to this day what would have changed if it never happened.

Someone once told me, “You would look good with your dad.” And that’s when it hit me – like the bullet that hit my father. I hadn’t really told anyone. I didn’t want people to judge me for not having a dad. I didn’t want any rumors created for someone to use the story as material to tease me.

Now, going back to that experience, I realize that I should be proud of what happened.

My mom told me that I used to ask her, “Mom why don’t I have a dad like the other kids? Where’s my daddy?” She would only tell me that he is an angel and that God took him because he needed him. And I believed her. She only told me this because she knew I wouldn’t understand the story. She was probably right.

National Law Enforcement Memorial
Photo courtesy of Mark Gossage.

Mom used to have a set of photos of my dad when I was younger. I would yell, “Daddy! Daddy!” out loud. It would break her heart to see me doing this so she put them away. She didn’t want me to have a constant reminder waiting to tear into my emotions.

It’s funny to think how you can be so attached to someone, even if you have never met them. You don’t know anything about that person, but you feel like you do, or did, or should. But you kind of do know them. From hearing the stories of what they were like, you start to understand something. You understand why they are missed so much. You wish you could have met them, but you can’t. You start to love them.

Losing a parent isn’t like losing a grandparent. I lost someone who was a part of me. After several years of gaining more and more information about my dad, I become more and more proud of who I am. It makes me who I am today, and I’m proud to be his daughter.

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