Such great loss … such wonderful heroes

Editor’s note: This online version has been updated to reflect a change from the original printed version.

It only took a few minutes to realize something significant was happening in Jersey City on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, and it will go down as one of the most harrowing days in Hudson County history.

At this newspaper’s office, after receiving an alert, we all tuned into an iPhone app to listen in on the Jersey City Police Department’s frequency. There was yelling and screaming, albeit calm and orderly. The chief of the department’s voice could be heard. The echoes of gunfire were so loud they could be heard from the radios of officers who were stationed inside a Catholic elementary school just across the street from one of the crime scenes. It seemed to get worse and worse with every subsequent transmission.

Moments after we started listening, we learned several members of the Kearny Police Department, who are members of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s SWAT Team, were among scores of law-enforcement officials sent to the scene, on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Jersey City, to help to end a wild scene of carnage.

When it was all over, two of the victims had a connection to our readership area — Det. Joseph Seals, of the Jersey City Police Department and a resident of North Arlington, was the tragedy’s first victim, having been shot in the head at Bay View Cemetery, Jersey City.

A few days later, one of the civilian victims, we learned, lived in Harrison — Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, a father and husband who was a clerk at Jersey City Kosher Deli, also on MLK Drive.

The loss of life is difficult enough to fathom in this situation. But it was made even worse because of their connection to our communities.

Both were married. Both were fathers. Both were incredibly special human beings who had an impact on this world in their own, unique ways. This world is at a loss because both Det. Seals and Mr. Rodriguez are no longer in it.

This also served as yet another reminder of the dangers police officers face on a daily basis. For the Jersey City PD, this is the sixth line-of-duty death since 2001 — including Dominick Infantes, Robert Nguyen, Shawn Carson, Marc Anthony DiNardo and Melvin Santiago who went before Det. Seals. We were reminded by this by Sgt. Adriano Marques, of the Kearny PD, who noted these losses happened in the timeframe since he got on the job 20 years ago.

We were reminded that several officers who patrol our streets were in the middle of a gun battle that will be impossible to forget anytime soon. They left the Town of Kearny and headed right into harm’s way when the goal was to get everyone else to complete and utter safety.

Fortunately, everyone from Kearny came home unharmed, safely, on a day when two of our neighbors didn’t. Perhaps Det. Seals or Mr. Rodriguez passed us by as they left North Arlington and Harrison to head to Jersey City that morning. Perhaps they took a look at the same buildings we did that morning as they headed east into Jersey City for a day’s work. Likely, neither had a thought they’d never come home that night — or ever again.

But for two families, that is precisely a reality. There are two homes, one in North Arlington and one in Harrison, that both had one less person in them just 24 hours after they left for work on Tuesday, Dec. 10. There could be no greater loss for a family.

So we take this time to recall that our own police officers were ready, willing and able when the call came for them to put their lives in great danger. While others fled, they went toward the carnage. They would probably never admit this on their own, but every single member of the Kearny PD who was in Jersey City that day is a hero — and nothing can be said or done that changes that reality.

We recall the heroic life of Det. Seals, an amazing police officer and detective who dedicated 13+ years of his life to ensuring Jersey City’s streets had fewer guns on them — he succeeded at that amazingly.

We recall the life that was Mr. Rodriguez’s, a man who dedicated himself to his beautiful wife and daughter and who worked diligently, seven miles from home, at a deli, so that things could be better for his family.

They are both heroes and their names — Joseph Seals and Douglas Miguel Rodriguez — must never, ever be forgotten. Their sacrifices may very well have saved the lives of countless others.

May they both rest in eternal peace, in the arms of God, knowing they both made this world a much better — and safer — place.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.