Working Out For The Fallen

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Massapequa site of 10-year workout memorial for slain officer

Some of the 40 participants that came down to CrossFit Massapequa to do a WOD (Workout Of the Day) in honor of slain police officer Artie Lopez.
(Photo by Jethro Cardona)

When 45 people showed up at the Crossfit Massapequa gym to perform a WOD (Workout Of the Day) named Artie, it was a means of honoring the 10-year anniversary of Nassau County Police Emergency Services officer Arthur “Artie” Lopez’s on-duty death following a routine traffic stop of a hit-and-run driver on October 23, 2012 at Jamaica Avenue in Bellerose. The perpetrator, then-33-year-old Darrell Fuller, pulled a gun and shot Lopez, fled the scene, car-jacked a vehicle, killing motorist Raymond Facey in the process, and fled up the nearby Cross Island Parkway. With Lopez now gone for 10 years, fellow police officer and CrossFit Massapequa trainer/coach Jethro Cardona thought it only appropriate to honor the fallen officer in this way.
“As a newly minted CrossFit coach over at CrossFit Massapequa, I decided what better way to honor [Artie’s] legacy because when we stop talking about what happened and stop speaking his name, it kind of goes away as if it didn’t happen,” Cardona said. “CrossFit has a number of Hero Workouts in honor of those who’ve fallen either in the line of duty or in the military. It is not your typical three-minute workout of push-ups and pull-ups. It’s really a tough workout which brings the community together x`and helps to share in the suffering of that day. As we know, once you suffer with people next to you, around you and all together, it makes it that much more memorable when you think about Artie.”

While the 15-year Nassau County Police Department (NCPD) veteran only met Lopez once in passing, mutual friends reinforced how appropriate a WOD in the slain officer’s name would be.
“A childhood friend of mine knew Artie well and said he was an avid CrossFitter,” Cardona explained. “He was all about fitness, staying in shape and being ready for duty.”
Among the roughly 80 people showing up for the Oct. 22 workout were police brass, local residents and members of event sponsors Nassau County Police Activity League (PAL) and the Nassau County Police Department’s Hispanic Society, a fraternal organization that the Puerto Rican Cardona belongs to.

In addition, money was raised for the Concerns of Police Survivors, a nonprofit organization serving the needs of those family members who have lost loved ones on the job. Heartened by the turnout, the New Hyde Park native-by-way-of-Brooklyn-transplant said Lopez’s death was a sobering reminder of the challenges law enforcement face on a regular basis.
“It just goes to show that a normal traffic stop is never normal wherever you are in the country, whatever time of day, whatever time of year—anything can go wrong at any time,” Cardona said. “The biggest challenge [of the job] is being able to let things go. I caught a call of a medical episode of an eight-month-old infant that wasn’t breathing. You can go from that to trying to separate arguing family members to a routine car accident. You have to wear different hats. You have to wear the hat of a medic, a guidance counselor, police officer and a lawyer and you have to be able to change those hats at the drop of a time with every call you get, which is very challenging.”

Chuck Dougherty pumping iron at CrossFit Massapequa while doing the WOD (Workout Of the Day) in honor of slain police officer Artie Lopez.
(Photo by Jethro Cardona)

WODs are an intense, cross mix of aerobic exercise, calisthenics (bodyweight exercises) and Olympic weightlifting crammed into a tight time frame with small, interspersed rest intervals. It’s a tough workout and one that Cardona felt was a great way to remember Lopez.
“What I told everyone in the debriefing before each workout was that while you are working heard at the eleventh minute or the seventeenth minute or whatever minute you’re at where it’s really hard at that point, just think about how Artie would give anything to be here doing that right then and there,” he recalled. “I told them to keep that in mind and to honor Artie in that way.”

As someone who started CrossFitting nine years ago and becoming a Level 1 trainer in 2015, Cardona is well aware of the positive effects of wellness and fitness, particularly when it comes to processing grief and trauma. Which reinforced his idea of making this particular WOD at CrossFit Massapequa a regular annual event in Lopez’s name “…as long as the gym will have me.”
“With this being the first year of doing it, I had no idea what to expect,” he said. “It was very humbling in terms of everyone who showed up and donated and they had nothing but good things to say about it. It all starts with the preparation, articulation and bringing the community together. There is nothing better in CrossFit than getting the community together and sharing this experience with law enforcement and the community, especially the community members who don’t even do CrossFit who came down to check it out. That was a really amazing thing to see.”

Visit www.concernsofpolicesurvivors.org to find out more about Concerns of Police Survivors.

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