Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson in his office, with pictures of his family behind him. Photo/George Shirk
It felt just like any other morning to Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson.
Answer the alarm clock, shuffle toward the kitchen and the coffee pot and switch on CNN for a first-take on the day's news.
Suddenly, it was not any other morning at all, as images and helter-skelter reporting from Newtown, Conn. blared the news of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
"I had the same reaction as every parent and grandparent in the country had," Watson said softly in an interview Friday afternoon, shortly before he and and Schools Superintendent Rich Boccia issued a joint statement on the mass killing of the elementary school students.
"This is a horrible, horrible tragedy that affects everyone," he said.
Aside from those directly affected, perhaps none feel it more than a police chief in a small, bucolic town—a town like Newton; a town like Mammoth.
"We live in a beautiful town," he said, "where as far as violent crime goes, it's less likely to happen."
Watson paused and folded the fingers of both hands together.
"It scares the hell out of me," he said. "No one is prepared to handle the magnitude of what happened out there. We need to realize that horrible things can happen anywhere."
"No one expected 9/11; for a town like that, this was their 9/11."
Watson said he was reminded of the helplessness on the part of police officers during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992.
A member of the Los Angeles Police Department, Watson led a task force into South Central L.A., but neither he nor his men could do anything to stop a six-day riot that took 53 lives and more than 2,000 injuries.
"We are here to protect the public," Watson said. "During those days and nights I felt a total sense of frustration and disappointment that we were unable to protect them."