It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way… Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities”
I couldn’t help but think of Charles Dickens’ opening lines from “A Tale of Two Cities” when thinking of the events that transpired in Mobile over the past week.
Last Wednesday, Airbus broke ground on a second manufacturing facility here in Mobile for its A220 plane. It is a move that will bring at least 400 new jobs to the Port City and make us the fourth-largest aircraft manufacturing city in the world, after only Toulouse, Hamburg and Seattle. Let that sink in. Fourth-largest maker of aircraft in the world. Wow.
State, county and local officials were on hand for the groundbreaking and were every bit as excited as they were when Airbus first chose us as the U.S. city where they would build their planes.
Maybe even more so.
The buzz seemed to be this second facility would be the real game-changer for our city. Not only because of new jobs Airbus promised to bring, but the powers that be seemed to think we would most certainly now see a real influx of secondary suppliers we haven’t seen yet setting up shop here, obviously bringing even more jobs. It should soon prove to be transformative in every way. Houses will be sold, apartments will be rented, restaurants will be full, retail cash registers will be ringing, and on and on and on.
We have been waiting to really feel the economic impact of this project for quite some time, and now it seems like our ship, or in this case, plane, has finally come in.
Just before Airbus officials and governmental leaders dug their shovels into the dirt on Wednesday, Mayor Sandy Stimpson spoke at a breakfast put on by the Downtown Mobile Alliance.
He beamed about all of the new downtown residential properties that are under construction or have just become available for lease, some effective new legal remedies they have for dealing with blighted properties and the continued work they are doing on the St. Louis corridor and the more pedestrian-friendly tools they are putting in place on Water Street. He also said the transformation of Broad Street, made possible by a TIGER grant, was imminent — they were just waiting for the final approval on plans.
He reminded us the RESTORE Act money was on the way (though administering it was going to be complicated), the I-10 bridge construction would finally be underway soon, the Three Mile Creek Greenway Initiative was becoming a reality and he was hopeful the Brookley airport would offer more direct and affordable options to our citizens and business travelers alike, teasing the announcement this week that Frontier Airlines would be offering direct flights from Mobile to Denver and Chicago, starting in May.
The past few weeks have been pretty great for the city of Mobile, to say the least. The best of times.
But then, on Sunday, the darkness came flooding right back in, as one of our own, Mobile Police Officer Sean Tuder, was killed in the line of duty. The absolute worst of times.
The 30-year-old, who was also a member of the National Guard and had recently been named Officer of the Month, leaves behind his wife and family. And this happened 11 months to the day from when Officer Justin Billa was killed as he responded to a domestic violence call, leaving behind his wife and young son.
So senseless and so tragic. Destroying two families forever.
Making this even more gut-wrenching is the person who is charged with taking Tuder’s life is just 19 years old, Marco Perez.
Perez had already had several run-ins with the law, the most recent of which was allegedly faking his own kidnapping and death in what law enforcement believes was an attempt to escape pending federal charges. His mother was also charged in connection with that case after she reported him missing.
District Attorney Ashley Rich said the suspect had been homeless and living in the woods and was visiting someone who lived at the apartment complex where this took place.
It was Officer Tuder’s day off, but he received information from a confidential source on an investigation he had been working on, so he was given permission to go ahead and follow the lead.
He was shot multiple times after getting into an altercation with Perez.
After this fallen officer is honored and laid to rest, tough questions will follow.
How have we lost two officers in less than a year? Are we training, equipping and supporting our men and women in blue? How are we letting 19-year-olds become capable of capital murder? At what point did someone give up on this kid and at what point did he give up on himself? Is there anything we can do to address these residential properties that are hotbeds for criminal activity?
Is there anything we can do to stop the revolving door on repeat offenders going from jailhouse to back out on the streets, over and over again? And why is this still happening? We have been talking about this for years and years now!
And are we really doing all we can to eliminate violent crime and make Mobile the safest city in America by 2020? Are we? I just don’t know.
I know there are no easy answers or solutions. But we have to try.
There is a lot to be proud of and excited about in this city, but there are also many, many challenges we still need to address and obstacles we must overcome. And we can’t lose sight of those as we are celebrating our victories. We just can’t.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Our deepest sympathies are extended to the family of Officer Sean Tuder.