Tuesday, February 10, 1998
Conway brings out best in us

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Kathleen Conway
Consider this a thank-you note.

It's from the family of Cincinnati Police Officer Kathleen Shannon Conway. They cannot, they say, ever reach all the people who have sent flowers, written letters and cards and prayed for their Katy. And it is worth remembering that Officer Conway, praised by fellow officers for her bravery and professional composure, first was a ''very special little girl.''

She is Chris, Kevin and Michael's sister, Jacob's godmother-to-be, Jane's granddaughter, Tom's daughter. And very special indeed.

Audio and transcript of police calls
''Are you hurt?'' asked the radio dispatcher Feb. 2, responding to a call for help from car 1212.

Officer Conway, covered in blood, shot four times, moments after returning fire with a gun she pulled from a holster on her fractured hip, replied, ''That's affirmative.''

That's affirmative?

Hell yes! would be more like it.

''Did you notice that there were no bad words on the tape?'' says Katy's grandmother, Jane Keniston of Mount Lookout.

Well, to tell the truth, I hadn't noticed. But I noticed that this kid - and I mean no disrespect but she is only 23 years old - seemed uncommonly determined to survive.

Faye Conway, Katy's mom, a first-grade teacher who lives in Anderson Township, shows me pictures from a family wedding. ''Look at that red hair. Isn't that a sweet face.''

I do. And it is.

And I know Faye Conway, who says Katy is bright and kind and ''a very special little girl,'' has told her so. To her face. Many times.

When I went to University Hospital looking for the reason this young woman was so brave, I think I saw the answer right in front of me, wearing a black pantsuit and a weary smile. Pale blue eyes, gold wire-rimmed glasses pushed carelessly on top of her blond hair, this is one of those moms who lets her children know they are special and important.

It's not only something to live up to, but when the chips are down, maybe it helps them remember their lives have value.

A puppy and a lucky penny

Upstairs at the hospital, the solarium near Katy's room is clogged with people - family, police officers, friends. Some friends drove up from Louisville. ''They knew they couldn't see Katy, but they came anyway,'' Mrs. Conway says. ''Just to be here with us.''

A couple of boys Katy met when she was ''flipping burgers at Coney'' raced to the hospital when they heard the news. ''And they stood there while Katy was in surgery.'' Nearly three hours.

Send email to Officer Conway
Police officers from all over the country have written. The ones around here have brought food. Strangers have offered Katy a puppy and a lucky penny and dinner.

A young girl wrote, ''I got my ears pierced for my birthday. And I wasn't as brave as you.''

Another letter came from a woman whose husband was arrested by Officer Conway for drunk driving. ''You put your arm around me and said, 'It's gonna be all right,' '' the woman wrote. ''And it was.'' The woman said she would never forget the police officer's kindness.

Flowers, balloons, cards. People who want to shake her hand. People who want to take her to dinner. People who just want her to know that she is in their prayers.

And Katy? She is still a little confused and amazed that so many people know her story.

Well, Officer Kathleen Shannon Conway, we needed some good news. And a live hero. We have seen too many badges crossed with black tape.

We have been heartsick.

Faye Conway says she is grateful for the prayers and the ''genuine concern.'' She knows her daughter ''has a long recovery ahead, but we know she'll get better. She will heal.''

Maybe we all will.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio, and as a regular commentator on NPR's Morning Edition.


Previous stories

Officer must have heart of lion Cliff Radel column, Feb. 6, 1998
Officer tells of shouts, shots Feb. 6, 1998
Website, donations Feb. 6, 1998
Irrational suspects test cops Feb. 6, 1998
Cops: Safety top priority Feb. 5, 1998
Colleagues praise officer's quick action Feb. 4, 1998
Sequence of events Feb. 4, 1998
A determined, caring officer Feb. 4, 1998
Gunman 'never talked bad about police' Feb. 4, 1998
Police attacks less frequent, more deadly Feb. 4, 1998
Officer shot; suspect dead Feb. 3, 1998
Audio and transcipt of police radio calls Feb. 3, 1998