Wounded officer visits school children

June 12, 2008 3:36:56 PM PDT
First graders at West End Memorial Elementary Shool in Wodbury, New Jersey got a chance to meet the Philadelphia police officer they'd been sending get well cards to since he was injured last year. Officer Richard DeCoatsworth was shot in the jaw during a routine car stop last September. The then 6 & 7 year olds made it their business to encourage the then 21-year-old cop's recovery by periodically sending him get well wishes.

"'Cuz he was in the hospital and he was really sick," said first grader Emily DiMarino.

"Because he was hurt. How did you want him to feel? Happy.," said Caitlin McGeehan.

"Because he's a police officer and I want to be one when I grow up," added another young boy.

Today, Officer Decoatesworth fielded their questions, like why he wanted to become a policeman.

He gave them police department t-shirts and accepted a stone the students emblazened with the word Courage.

Officer Decoatsworth put on his uniform and went back to work last Tuesday, nearly 9 months after he was injured. And it's the caring and kindness of first graders like these that helped with his healing.

"You know I think people initially see this," Decoatesworth said, referring to his scar. He will undergo several cosmetic surgeries over the next 2 years. But he says emotionally he's healed well despite what's happened.

"I can't help to always think back to September 24th. The only thing I can do is take that as a learning experience and understand that we can get hurt. We are human beings. We're not invincible."

"Thank you for letting our children believe in heros.", the school principal said. "Everything you've done demonstrates the character of a hero."

A hero that's now their friend.