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By Kevin Horton
For years, National Night Out Against Crime – or simply National Night Out – has celebrated police departments and their commitment to protect and connect with their communities.
Food and family activities are common at such occasions, and Southport’s program appeared fairly common: The aroma of barbecue permeated the air, and flags lined the street; a crane displayed a Blue Lives Matter flag above the nearby playground, which served as the primary attraction for dozens of children enjoying a moment of relief from their homework; and citizens filled the parking lot of the Southport Police Department.
But this year was different. The U.S. and Blue Lives Matter flags on the flagpoles flew at half-staff; there were bag pipers; and the memorial for Southport Police Lt. Aaron Allan was blanketed with flowers, stuffed animals and sympathy notes. Allan was fatally shot July 27 while trying to help a motorist trapped in an overturned car.
The dark, thundering sky cast its own solemnity on the event. The brief memorial service near the beginning of the event reminded everyone of the gravity of Allan’s death. Southport Mayor Russell McClure and Allan’s father, James Allan, commended the lieutenant for his service.
Despite the somber mood, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett remained optimistic. He reminded the crowd that this was a day to “lift up law enforcement, lift up peace,” adding that “Aaron epitomized why we come together on National Night Out.”
A cookie stand bearing the sign “Cookies for Cause: in memory of Lt. Allan” stood near the end of the parking lot, and some children abandoned the playground in favor of participating in a scavenger hunt.
Near the baseball field at Southport Park stood a pair of World War re-enactors with equipment used by U.S. soldiers at the time. While the weapons – a trench gun, a P14 bolt-action rifle, an M1 Garand and an M1 carabine – drew most of the attention, the set also included a canteen, a blanket, a helmet, a steel pan with utensils, Lucky Strike cigarettes and a pair of men’s underwear.
Although rain briefly halted some of the celebration, many children continued to enjoy the day, and the silent and live auctions – benefiting Allan’s family and the Police Department – proceeded as planned underneath a double rainbow once the weather cleared.