When we first arrived, Mrs. Booker immediately greeted us with a smile. She chit chatted about my daughter who was with us and things she had read on Facebook. She was wearing a Team Dave t-shirt.
Their house is not a house; it is most definitely a home. You can feel the love as soon as you walk in. She has a doll room, which my daughter found immediately. There are pictures everywhere, which Amanda seemed to enjoy! Each picture told its own story: wedding pictures, graduation pictures, a young couple ready to start their lives together. When you go to the living room more pictures greet you, a daughter, a son, and three grandbabies. Two large posters are in the corner of the room with signatures and pictures of what we would later find out are former students of his. These photos tell the story for all who enter the house, including Dave.
We sit down and I get to the reason why I am there. I want to know more about this man that so many speak so highly of. The first thing I notice about Kim is that she misses her husband. She is obviously still very much in love with the man she married. She misses the man she married. Don’t get me wrong, she cherishes the time she has with Dave for he is a true miracle, but when I share with you who Dave is, you will understand her longing for days gone by.
Officer David Booker joined MPD March 1975. He came on from serving on the Bartlett Police Department. When he entered the academy he was last in physical agility and third in law enforcement courses. When he graduated, he was at the top. See Dave is a fighter, an overcomer and this is just the first example of it in his career.
Officer Booker had so many accomplishments in his career. In addition to his officer duties, he started several neighborhood watch and crime prevention programs from the trunk of his car. The city didn’t have the budget and he improvised in the beginning. Officer Booker was a recruiter as well. A title, I think if he was aware of what was happening he would be upset about. He recruited under the same promises that were made to him. He is an honest, God fearing man and he would not be happy with the way the city dishonored the promises to the people he recruited. I just see that about him. He would probably be more concerned about them over himself and he would be doing everything he could to fight for them. I can just see it.
Officer Booker was one of the people that helped better our city’s culture through the Wonders series. I remember those series very well. It was a great way for Memphians experience the “wonders” of history and culture. Hence the name. We could learn about Napoleon, Ramses the Great, Catherine the Great, among many others. As a history teacher, of course this is at the top of the list for me. These were incredible learning opportunities for the people in this city. His bookshelves are decorated with the statues that honor him for each series.
Officer Booker was such an incredible employee he was awarded employee of the year for Shelby County by the very same mayor that takes his livelihood from him today. Mayor Wharton spoke very highly of Officer Booker in his speech about him and to me privately when I met with him last August. I asked Mrs. Booker if Mayor Wharton ever called her as he promised me he would when we met. I was pretty sure I knew he hadn’t and I was right. Her answer was no and in fact, she had not been called by anyone from the administration despite the fact she had been told by several individuals that either the Mayor, George Little, or Quinton Robinson would be calling her. She pointed out that she has a cell phone and she still has a landline with an answering machine and no one has reached out.
I could feel my face turning red with anger when I hear a noise behind me. I turn and there is the man himself. Dave walked in the room and looked at us with confusion. Kim introduces us and she asks if there is anything we can share with the mayor for him. He answers “yes.” He proceeds to talk about the fact he is not in the right bed. He is concerned that the person who should be in that bed is without a bed. He makes sure we know that the right thing to do is find out who should be in that bed.
Some may immediately notice that he is lost, but not me. I quickly jot down the fact that the first thing he thinks of is others. He wants to make a perceived wrong for someone else right. I am there to fight for him to ask anything he wants to the mayor and he wants to make sure that this “person” gets their bed back. Wow. His natural tendency is to think of others before self. He wasn’t concerned he was in the wrong bed and he had been wronged, he was upset for someone else. Despite his condition, his heart still belonged to a police officer.
He sits down in the recliner next to us and he asks to watch T.V. Kim asks him to tell us a little about being a police officer. He tells us of Elvis. You see, Dave was such a trustworthy police officer that he was the one chosen to guard Elvis the night he passed away. They knew he was honest enough not to exploit the opportunity to make money off of the evening. Can you imagine how much he could have made taking pictures of “The King”? They were looking for a person of integrity and they chose Officer Booker. She asks him what the hardest part of the job was and he answered, “Arresting people.” He explained there were lots of bad people out there. Officer Booker, you have no idea.
He again is concerned about why we are there. I explain to him that we are there because we are fighting for his benefits and for the officers he recruited. He asked about the department and when we told him the shape MPD was in, his heart broke. I watched as he digested what I told him about officers leaving and promises broken. He immediately sobbed. Tears began to stream down his face and he wanted to know why. He was scared for the police and for his home. I explain that Amanda and I will do everything we can to help him and his fellow policemen. This seemed to help he says thank you and asks to watch T.V. again.
After we all collect ourselves from crying together, Kim explains that the fact we were able to have the conversation with Dave is a miracle. If you are not aware of his story, Dave had a Complete Bilateral Mid Brain Thalamic Stroke in 2011 right after meeting his first granddaughter. He was never supposed to wake up. They called his children home to say goodbye and in 2015 he is telling us about Elvis.
Now, while a miracle, not a miracle of healing as of today. He is alive and his family is grateful for that. He doesn’t recognize his grandchildren and some days he may not even recognize Kim. There are days he believes he owns sports teams and days he feels he has to go hunting with his trusty broom. Then there are days he may sleep all day.
His brain is a mystery, even to many doctors. Officer Booker’s case is so severe that to their knowledge no one has survived this type of stroke with this severity before. Dave’s case file has been shown to many doctors who are all shocked he is breathing on his own, let alone telling Elvis stories. His brain cannot properly regulate sleep, personal hygiene, hunger, memory, most every day things. Every day is a new experience for the Booker family.
When he first had the stroke Mrs. Booker had to dip in to their savings to pay for the therapy that the city insurance didn’t cover. She paid $2000 a month out of their savings so he could learn the difference between a fork and a spoon. My first question is why? With health issues high in our public servants, why isn’t this available or covered? She has been fighting for disability iinsurance, which has not been an easy fight either and she hopes that fight will be over this fall.
What about Social Security you ask? I am glad you asked that. Dave did pay into it through other jobs, but since there was a lapse of over 10 years, he doesn’t qualify. If he gets disability insurance, this will leave Mrs. Booker to fend for herself for insurance since the city has kicked retirees to the curb. She was blessed to be a stay at home mom most of her marriage. She will be forced to pay for the insurance to the tune of $1600 a month. If Dave has to go to a nursing home, which Mrs. Booker is NOT interested in, what pension he has after the insurance will go to the nursing home?
After everything this distinguished officer has done for this city, the thanks he gets is to make his beautiful bride, the love of his life, and mother of his children homeless. Now of course, their children would take care of her and try their best to help now. But, is that right? After giving so much to the city, the community, is it right to treat him this way? Is it right that this administration didn’t even CALL HIM?
I have just touched the surface on what this man has done for his family, his city, his community, his students, and his church. He is truly a man to be honored, revered and he has been dealt a devastating blow. How dare the City of Memphis further the destruction? Mrs. Booker will be preparing to sell the family home, a home that Dave built himself. You steal his benefits; you steal his security, and now his home.
As we left, I hugged Kim goodbye and she finished with “I know there are people that are worse off than us and I feel for them”. She referred to the Picture of Michelle and her Daughter that Amanda took. This is the type of family A.C. Wharton is destroying. Both of these wonderful individuals are thinking of others in the face of great adversity! They naturally care for others. I sit here with so much more I could say. I want Mayor Wharton to spend some time with Dave Booker, not to feel sorry for him, but to learn what it means to have integrity and heart because even on his worst day, he has more of those two things than the mayor has on his best day. I want one of those shirts because I am most definitely on Team Dave. #YouHaveOptions #IAmOnTeamDave