Growing from tragedy

A year after the unthinkable happened, a community rallies together to honor their hero

By Jeremy Dunn

Over a year ago, tragedy rocked the Southport community. On July 27, 2017, as Perry Township and its residents were acclimating to the start of a new school year, Lt. Aaron Allan unexpectedly lost his life while responding to a traffic accident on Madison Avenue. The Southside was left heartbroken and grieving the loss of a true hero that was deeply engrained into the fabric of the very community that he protected and served.

However, while many communities are seeing rising tensions between its citizens and law enforcement, Southport’s two sides have displayed an undeniable bond while mourning their fallen hero. Recently, city officials unveiled a memorial dedicated to Allen at its new municipal complex.

The memorial in honor of Lt. Aaron Allan stands outside of the new Southport Municipal Complex, 137 Worman St. It was designed by Duane Langreck, president of the Southport Redevelopment Commission. (Photos by Nicole Davis.)

Honoring a hero

Southport Mayor Russell McClure started the unveiling ceremony, reminding those in attendance how quickly the community changed last July. “Everything changed for us on July 27, 2017. We felt helpless. One of our officers, Lt. Aaron Allan, lost his life responding to a simple traffic accident. Stacy’s [Allan’s wife] world changed. Aaron’s family’s world changed. The Southport Police Department and city’s world changed. We MUST continue Aaron’s mission as a tribute to the fallen,” he said.

McClure was joined by Southport Police Chief Tom Vaughn, Senator Joe Donnelly and Stacy Allan, who spoke for the first time publicly since the tragedy. The 38-year old mother of two urged the community to stand firm in faith. “I choose peace,” she said. “I choose to live in the light of the Lord, even in my darkest moments. I cling to hope, we cling to hope, knowing that the good in this world far outweighs any evil.” In closing, Allan asked for prayers for those affected by recent tragedies and took a moment to express her gratitude to the crowd.

The strong bond between the community and the police department was eloquently summarized in McClure’s closing statement, “…this memorial is not made of brick or stone or concrete but with the dedication and sacrifice of all law enforcement, men and women. It is to their honor and memoriam, that we dedicate this today.”

Unveiling the memories

As the speakers concluded their messages, the Southport Police Department Color Guard presented the flags that were raised during the ceremony and the memorial piece, designed by Duane Langreck, president of the redevelopment commission, was unveiled. The memorial wall spans 5 feet and includes a thin blue line and a trio of flags. One of the flags includes a thin blue line American flag that Vaughn carried to Washington, D.C. in Allan’s honor.

The unveiling was also accompanied by the grand opening of the new Southport Municipal Complex at 137 Worman St. Visitors were treated to tours of the grounds that included multiple pieces honoring Allan. Local artist and president of SoArts Duane King was in attendance to share his vision for creating a bronzed bust of Allan and sharing the fundraising opportunities available.

Duane King, SoArts president, is creating a bust of Lt. Allan, to be displayed at the Southport Municipal. SoArts is currently fundraising to have the bust bronzed. More info can be found at SoArts.org.

Finding light among the darkness

Vaughn shared that the tragic passing of Allan served as a testament to the strength of the community. “We have learned this department is very resilient,” he said. “The citizens know they have lost a dedicated and professional police officer who cared deeply about the people he served and because of his loss we as a department are continuing to learn just how much citizens care about all of the other members of Southport Police Department.”

The police chief also cites the value of Allan’s family during the grieving process. “His family lost an amazing husband, father and son and yet we learned they were just as important to sustaining and encouraging the officers in the months after his death as the citizens were,” Vaughn said. “In our attempt to assist the family, it was they who actually gave so much more support to the officers in the days following his death.  Aaron’s family continues to be one of the greatest sources of support for the officers in the department as well as our city.”

Ultimately, Vaughn recognizes the impact Allan had on the community. “The greatest lesson we learned from this tragedy, however, is we have discovered just how important one individual can be to the community and the department he served,” he said.

Carrying on a legacy

Moving forward, the Southport Police Department will continue to transition into their new headquarters, in which Allan was instrumental in contributing to its design. The new complex will strive to provide training and education for officers not only in Southport but throughout central Indiana. Officers will also be able to train on soon-to-be-acquired Firearm Training Simulators (F.A.T.S. machines) to increase marksmanship skills.

Even a year later, signs of Allan’s impact can be seen throughout the Southside community. Recently, Perry Township Schools encouraged students and staff to wear blue in honor of Allan and show support for local law enforcement.

Chief Thomas Vaughn presents then Sgt. Aaron Allan with the 2015 Officer of the Year award.

Vaughn expressed that amongst unspeakable tragedy, the community has truly shown its support. “They have memorialized him with fundraisers, challenge coins and most notably the Memorial Wall in front of the new headquarters. From t-shirts to street signs to window decals and bumper stickers, our citizens have shown an outpouring of support and encouragement for our officers and department. It is so strange and ironic that with the terrible loss of Aaron, we found out how much the citizens care about us as a department.”

Without a doubt, Allan is looking down on his beloved Southside home with an overwhelming sense of pride and love, knowing that his community elects to carry his light brightly.