LINDEN, NJ — The city of Linden was shaken to its core two weeks ago with the dramatic capture of the NY/NJ bomber after a shootout with Linden police on the rain-swept streets of Linden. And Linden’s School No. 5 wanted to thank their local heroes for saving the day by creating get-well cards and sending their best get-well wishes.
The idea was born inside the school’s third-grade classroom, where students voiced their wish to make get-well cards for injured Linden police officer Angel Padilla, along with Linden police investigators Pete Hammer and Mark Kahana.
Approximately 15 members of the Linden Police Department, along with Padilla and Kahana, surprised students at the school by coming in to personally thank them for their get-well wishes and to show support for the injured officers.
The Linden police officers were catapulted into the national spotlight when Ahmad Rahami, 28, was spotted sleeping in the doorway of a local bar, Merdie’s Tavern, by owner Harinder Bains. The Afghan-born Rahami was sought in connection with a series of bombings that occurred in both New York and New Jersey.
Bains recognized Rahami from photos he had seen of the bombing suspect on CNN and called the Linden police who were then involved in a shootout.
Padilla’s life was saved due to the bullet-proof vest he was wearing at the time of the shootout.
Third-grade teacher at School No. 5, Roxy Suggs, spoke with LocalSource inside her classroom at the school, and recalled that dramatic day. Suggs said that it was while she was teaching her class that the announcement came over the school loudspeaker. “It was a shelter-in-place announcement,” said Suggs, referring to the type of lockdown called for during this specific kind of emergency. “No one could come in or out of the building, the doors were locked, and the shades on the windows pulled down,” said Suggs.
Suggs, whose husband is a police officer in Garwood, said that her students were curious about what was happening. “When a student came up to me, I told them we’d talk about it,” said Suggs, who wanted to calm her kids quickly. “We talked about it as a soon as possible,” said Suggs.
The next day, said Suggs, her students knew the story that had unfolded the day before had a happy ending. “They said they knew that the ‘bad guy’ had been captured,” she said.
According to Suggs, Padilla has always been an active member of the community, as well as the school, volunteering his time for school activities and after-school events, as well as the PTA. Suggs also noted that many of her students’ parents are friends with the popular officer. And, when he found out that the school was making him get-well cards, he wanted to come thank the kids personally. “Officer Padilla read about it in the paper,” said Suggs. “He said he wanted to visit School No. 5.”
Suggs said that her class was the very first class that Padilla visited. “He came in and that’s when the emotions hit,” she said. “The class stood up and clapped for him and he started to cry.”
Suggs’ students were emotional when speaking to LocalSource about Padilla’s special visit to their classroom last week. “When I saw Officer Angel, I felt really happy and excited because he felt better,” third-grader Ariana told LocalSource. “We all wanted to see him because we all wanted to know that he was actually better.”
Third-grader Kaylee said that the police are her heroes. “My heart started beating fast, I was so excited,” Kaylee said when Padilla came to visit. “I got to meet my hero. My heroes are all the police that fight for School No. 5 and keep our school safe.”
Mya, who had drawn a heart on the front of her card with the words, ‘My Hero’ written inside, said that she was surprised when Padilla visited. “I was shocked because no one said he was coming,” she said. “He started crying because he didn’t know that we loved him so much. When I hugged Officer Padilla, it wasn’t like a fake hug.”
Savonne, also in the third grade, said that she and her family are close with Padilla. “My grandma cooks for him,” Savonne said, smiling. “She makes him fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. When he came up to me he was crying and he called me one of his children. He hugged me and I was about to cry just seeing him cry. We’re like family to him. Just seeing him made me feel better because I knew he was okay.”