After experiencing a tragedy, it can make simple things that much harder. You hide away for a while and then, eventually, you have to try to get back to day-to-day life. When Dakota Pitts had to return to school after the death of his father, he didn’t want to do it alone. Luckily he wouldn’t have to be.
5-year-old Dakota lost his police officer father in the line of duty. Rob Pitts, a veteran of Terre Haute police department, was responding to a call at an apartment complex on May 4th when he was shot and killed. Understandably, everyone was devastated.
After some time off school to cope with his grief, it was time for Dakota to return to school. He was nervous about showing up to school alone so his mother asked around if one of his father’s fellow officers could walk him into the school that day. But she was totally unprepared for the response she would get.
Police officers line up in the street to support Dakota’s return to school
As Dakota walked up to Sullivan Elementary School in Western Indiana that morning, he was met by 70 police officers lining the street. Officers from his father’s precinct and even other departments had come to help make Dakota’s first day back at school that bit easier.
Dakota asked his mom if one of his dad’s friends could drive him to school for his first day back. Little did he know that would turn into 70 Terre Haute and Vigo County officers showing up in Sullivan. He was shocked 💙 pic.twitter.com/lbXquLdTJU
— Kiley Thomas (@KileyWTHI) 14 May 2018
Welcome back to school, bud.
The officers stood in support, wearing yellow backpacks and his father’s police badge around their necks. It was a sight that neither Dakota or his mom will ever forget.
The nervous 5-year-old wore his father’s badge in the center of his t-shirt and he was presented with his own SWAT badge and shirt by a SWAT officer. The kind officer let him know that they would always have his back.
He will definitely know his dad was a hero. Blood doesn’t always make family and I think the blue family went above and beyond.
Even though Dakota was overwhelmed by his first big steps through the school door without his father by his side, he had 70 police officers there to support him. His father’s sacrifice will never be forgotten and he can grow up with the knowledge that his father loved him and so many people loved his father.
A student’s return to school after the death of a loved one, especially a parent, is difficult. Having the support of Rob’s police family helped Dakota take those first few steps. Our hope is that Dakota’s first day back to school after his father’s passing is one that he will remember forever and that he will always know how much his father’s sacrifice meant to all of us. – Sullivan Elementary Principal, Samantha Phegley