The first time Peggy Call made remembering someone her business, the Vietnam War was raging.
She was just a kid when she bought a $1 forget-me-not bracelet with Marine Lt. James M. McGarvey's name on it. Years later she'd find out he was 32 when he disappeared in the Vietnamese jungle.Call still makes remembering people her business - this time Utah peace officers who've lost their lives on the job. Her wristband now: the Internet.
She is the main creative force behind the Downed Officers site on the World Wide Web
Her connections to law enforcement run deep. Call has worked in the area for 16 years, first at the Layton Police Department and now in support services for the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office.
By her own admission, she's a computer junkie, too. Her favorite Internet hangout is the cops channel on the undernet, a sub-Internet network. On the cops channel people involved with law enforcement share tips as well as frustrations and traumas of their jobs.
They find a lot of kindred spirits.
For Call, one of those turned out to be Tim Bennett, an emergency medical technician from Washington, D.C. It was Bennett who first posted a message on the cops channel asking if anyone knew of a downed officers site on the Internet.
"No one knew of one," Call said. So she began a Web hunt for such a site and, voila, found one. It wasn't much - just a bunch of names - but she e-mailed the address to Bennett.
The e-mail message Bennett sent back to Call after he looked at the list of names was filled with profuse thanks.
"I could almost feel the tears," Call said.
On that list Bennett had found the name of a friend - a police officer who died last October after being shot in the head. Bennett had been the first EMT on the scene, but his efforts to save his friend had been futile."From that point on, we've been friends," Call said. "We developed a 'Net bond."
Call formed another friendship through the cops channel that would prove pivotal to creation of the Downed Officers site. She and Rich Lloyd, an Air Force training manager at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, worked in cyberspace to create a page of web resources for parents of mentally and emotionally disabled children.
About a week after they finished that project, the Utah Peace Officers Association magazine showed up in Call's mail. On the cover was a photograph of the plaque the group planned to place on every downed officers' grave in May.
Gazing at that picture, Call got the idea of creating a Web site tribute to the downed officers. She dashed off an e-mail message to Lloyd, asking for his help.
His response: "When do you want to start?"
Call then got in touch with Orem Police Capt. Mike Fenton, who is president of the Utah Peace Officers Association. He gave Call the go-ahead.
What then took place was a labor of love. Working in her spare time and on weekends on her home computer, Call scanned in photos and typed in stories about each officer killed in the line of duty in Utah from 1899 to the present.
She'd send text files to Lloyd, who'd scratch out spare time to program them into the Web page. "Without his total dedication to this, I wouldn't have been able to get it up."
As the work progressed, Call asked members of the cops channel to check out the site and give her their reactions. People from Australia, Belgium and England helped shape the page.
Call also enlisted the aid of Vyzynz International Inc., an Internet service provider located in Midvale. The company agreed to let Call and Lloyd post their creation on one of its Web servers.
On May 9th, during a memorial service for Utah's fallen officers at the state Capitol, Call unveiled the Downed Officers site.
"Anyone in the world can see this," Call said. "This way their memories are going to live on."
It was the Internet that proved to Call its capacity to help people remember each other. From the day she'd bought that metal bracelet inscribed with McGarvey's name, she'd wondered what happened to him.
Last year while surfing the 'Net she discovered a site dedicated to the Vietnam Wall Memorial. Heart pounding, she typed in McGarvey's name.
Seconds later the bit of wall engraved with his name materialized before Call's eyes, with a short profile of the young man.
"I'd kept that bracelet for years and never knew what happened to this guy. I sat and bawled," Call said.
Call traveled recently to Washington, D.C., to meet Tim Bennett, who really set the peace officer tribute in motion. She also visited the wall in person, carefully tracing McGarvey's name. Call plans to make a tribute to the Marine on her own virtual wall.
"People think I'm nuts, that I sit at my computer and piddle around, but what comes out is people's hearts and souls," she said.