I worked at a Mega Church for 15 years as the Broadcast System Chief Engineer and Video Editor for their weekly television program. I loved working there. Since we had a large facility and ministered to the Houston Police Department, when an Officer was killed in the line of duty, we usually hosted the public memorial services. The main Worship Center would seat 6,000 people and Police from all over would show up to pay their respects. I recall hosting about 12-14 large memorial services while I was working there, including the one for the fallen Federal Officers who were killed during the Waco Compound raid in 1993. These services were always very somber events but sometimes behind the scenes some interesting things would happen. My job was to coordinate and provide audio/video feeds to all the News trucks that showed up who would then microwave the service live back to their stations. Since our policy did not allow news cameras inside the building I would have what we called a media snake that provided the broadcast signals from inside the building. At least one of the trucks would provide a distribution box and I would plug our cables into that box. All the trucks would plug into the outputs of the box to feed their truck the signal. Sometimes dealing with the operators of the media trucks was like herding cats. Everyone fought to get the first feed out of the distribution box for the best signal. It became known that whoever provided the media box would get first choice. I saw one operator unplug a competitor’s truck, so he could plug in his truck. When the event was over, all the truck operators were friends again and usually would all meet somewhere for lunch.
Anyway, back to the event I started writing about; A police officer was killed in the line of duty, and we offered the use of our Worship Center for the service. It was a cold day since it was in mid-January. I don’t recall the exact year, but this was around 1995 or so. During these high-profile events we were issued radios where we could communicate with our team mates as well as Security. Since I worked for “Media” my call sign that day was ‘Media 2’. Part of my job as Chief Engineer was to make sure all the cameras were matching and operating at Broadcast Specs. This day we planned to use 4 cameras. Three of the cameras were on the main floor and one camera was on far stage right. I had finished going through cameras 1 and 2, which were the primary cameras. I started to work on camera 3 which was on the left side of the main floor. Near that camera was a double bank of glass doors leading outside. The casket had already been brought in, set up to be open. There were two Police Officers standing guard on both sides of the casket. As I worked on the camera, I saw something move outside one of the glass doors, I looked to see what it was. There was a squirrel outside looking in. That same time there was a Police Officer walking towards the doors heading outside. Before I could call out to the Officer to warn him about the squirrel, he opened the door to walk out. The squirrel took the chance to run into the warm building. That thing was fast as I watched it run towards the nearest set of pews. I tried to keep him in sight, but he disappeared under the pews. I unclipped the radio off my belt and called Security. I said, “There is a squirrel in the Worship Center.” They responded, “What is his name?” I said, “You don’t understand, there is a squirrel in the Worship Center” The response this time was, “If we don’t know who it is we can’t do anything about it” As this discussion was taking place I was moving around trying to spot the squirrel. From the front of the set of pews I got down on the floor to look under the pews I caught a glimpse of him turning left to go across an aisle to the next set of pews. I made my way to the back of the Worship Center to the area where the squirrel crossed the aisle and spotted him again running in between the pews heading towards the Sound Booth area which is the back on the main floor in the center section. I made my way quickly to the sound booth just in time to see the squirrel take off at full speed down the aisle towards the casket. I stood there in shock watching him as he approached the casket when the young lady who was one of the Police Officers guarding the casket spotted the incoming varmint. My fear was he was going to get inside the casket. As the Squirrel approached her, I honestly thought she was going to draw her weapon when the squirrel jumped and flew past her and the casket and landed on the stage behind her. The squirrel made a turn to the right, jumped off the stage and ran down the next aisle towards the door that was open to the Narthex. I went out the nearest door to me into the Narthex just in time to see the squirrel run past me heading to the glass doors to my right. He jumped just before the door and slammed head first into the glass, bounced off and landed on the carpet looking stunned. I ran towards the squirrel hoping to get there to open the door, so he could run out, I did not make it in time. He was up and running full speed towards me as I jumped out of the way while he made his way to the Atrium. I made it around the corner in the Narthex just in time to see him run across the marble floor in the Atrium, he skidded as he tried to turn right to go up a set of stairs leading to the restaurant area. That is when I lost sight of him. Moments later I heard yelling and screaming as people warned others to get out of the way of the fast-moving squirrel. That was the last I saw of that squirrel. I heard that someone was quick enough to throw their coat over the rodent trapping him.
Since things seemed to be under control I went back to my cameras to finish setting up. I did not hear what eventually happened to the squirrel, but I understand that the guy who was able to trap him was bitten through the coat. The rest of the service went without any issues and the fallen Officer had an honorable memorial with a lot of Law Officers from across the state attending.