Shock. Disbelief. Uncontrollable sobbing. Crying. More crying. Silence. Red eyes. Single tear. Half-smile. Smile…
It’s been more than two years since Plymouth Township Officer Brad Fox was gunned down, ambushed by a man whose name rarely gets mentioned in the stories that have followed the incident. Fox died the day before his 35th birthday. Sept. 13, 2012.
Andrew Thomas was a convicted felon already on probation and according to reports was the prime suspect in the disappearance of his fiancée. This truly was a bad guy.
Officer Fox, meanwhile, was a U.S. Marine veteran and a seven-year veteran of the force. He and his K-9 partner Nick were investigating an accident in Plymouth Township in which the suspect had fled on foot leaving behind the wreck that included a stolen vehicle.
That’s when Thomas opened fire killing Fox and wounding his K-9 partner. Thomas shot himself at the scene.
I didn’t know Brad Fox very well. I knew him as a member of the Blueliners men’s ice hockey team that plays out of Center Ice in Oaks. I didn’t know his wife Lynsay either. I have talked to her a couple of times at other fundraisers.
The couple has two children – daughter Kadence and son Brad Fox Jr. It’s not likely I will ever know them very well either.
However, after two years and a few fundraising events I feel like I know them very well; I see Fox’ surviving teammates just about every week at the rink.
Tragedy is a strange phenomenon. Sometimes it brings people together who under normal conditions would never have known each other.
Like the teammates of Brad Fox; DeSantis. Jackson.
I have officiated their games and up until the murder of Fox they were just another team of guys I got to know on the ice. They were fun and funny at times and could be a nuisance at times. Gerry DeSantis was one of Fox’ closest friends.
On the ice, DeSantis at times would drive me crazy with his antics. Loud and boisterous I think I even tossed him out of a couple of games. Hey, just another night at the rink with the players. No big deal.
For the last two years, though, I see the difference the loss of one man has on many others. I see DeSantis and the rest of the boys. There is a pain that is obvious, a loss that shows through as they walk through the rink, sometimes with their own kids.
Their faces don’t hide it very well. You can see it. You can feel it. We say hello, high-five each other, a slap on the back here and there. But deep down you know it was the cruelest of events that created this odd new bond. It’s not the kind of bond any of us ever wanted. We all would have preferred that they were the players and I was the ref.
Fate didn’t see it that way so this year we gather again at the rink to play the game we love in the hope of raising some money for Fox’ widow and his two children. The Blueliners took on the Flyers alumni in the game held Saturday night before hundreds of adoring fans. The Flyers know all too well about loss of their own team members: Pelle Lindbergh. Barry Ashbee.
It’s sad but uplifting at the same time. We know Brad Fox is gone but we know his friends, family and teammates are there for him day after day, year after year.
So what started out with tears and sobs has moved to smiles. Not happy smiles but smiles of acknowledgement of support and love. And if that’s the best we can all do then I’m sure the Fox family will take it.
Andy Hachadorian is the editor of the Daily Local News in West Chester and is both an on-ice and off-ice hockey official. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, @DLNEditor on Twitter.