Josh Cochrane was in for a nice surprise Tuesday afternoon when he arrived at the headquarters of the Tri-County Flying Association at the Yarmouth airport.
The 12-year-old received a special gift – a boxful of coins, badges and other items – from police forces that wanted to show Cochrane their appreciation for his tribute to the victims of this summer’s shooting in Fredericton. Two of the four people who were killed in the August shooting were police officers.
Cochrane had been so moved and saddened by the tragedy that he expressed himself in one of the best ways he knows – by singing. He found a version of the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah that Brittney Billiot of Louisiana had previously written, sung and posted about police officers. He found the song so beautiful and fitting he decided to express his feelings by singing it, changing some of the lyrics slightly as a further tribute to those who lost their lives in Fredericton on Aug. 10.
Killed in the shooting were police constables Sara Burns, 43, and Robb Costello, 45, and Fredericton residents Donald Robichaud, 42, and Bobbie Lee Wright, 32.
Among those who were moved by Cochrane’s tribute was Amy Floyd, an RCMP officer in British Columbia. Cst. Floyd is based in Prince George, but she’s originally from New Brunswick and went to university in Fredericton.
“The shooting hit home for me obviously for a lot of reasons,” she said. “When I saw (Cochrane’s) video, it was sort of like a light on a dark day.”
Cst. Floyd contacted Ann Harrington, Cochrane’s mother, on Facebook to thank her for sharing his video, saying it had touched a lot of people.
“I said I wanted to do something special for Josh as a thank you from myself and from other police officers,” Cst. Floyd said. “I reached out to a couple of friends and it turned into something far more than I ever expected. I guess it goes to show the impact Josh has had on everybody.”
On the afternoon of Nov. 27, Cochrane’s mother brought him to the Tri-County Flying Association’s clubhouse. Harrington is involved in the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA). She told him she had to be there because she was on standby for a potential search-and-rescue mission and that he needed to go with her because there wasn’t going to be anyone at home.
When they arrived, everything seemed set up for a search so Cochrane had no idea something else was up. His mother suggested he call Cst. Floyd – with whom Cochrane had become friends since the posting of his video – so that he wouldn’t be bored while waiting for his mom at the flying club.
While chatting with Cst. Floyd, Cochrane was told there was someone she wanted him to meet, which is when Sgt. Ben Parry – commanding officer of the Yarmouth rural RCMP – and two other Mounties arrived with Cochrane’s gift.
Inside the hefty container, Cochrane found a variety of items from police forces across Canada, including about 230 challenge coins. (Cst. Floyd had learned that Cochrane loves collecting these coins.) Among them were coins from the RCMP commissioner and from the commanding officers of most of the RCMP’s divisions.
Cst. Floyd later told the Vanguard, “People gave their own personal (coins) to him, so there’s quite a bit of meaning behind each one. I’m going to sit down and video chat with him at some point and go over what each one is and who it’s from.”
The box contained other items too, including shoulder flashes (or badges). There were some items from the United States as well.
Cochrane said he was overwhelmed by it all.
“When I did the tribute for Cst. Burns and Cst. Costello, I never realized how many lives I would touch,” Cochrane said. “I never realized how many new friends would come into my life and how many more people would be added to my extended family.”
One of those friends, of course, is Cst. Floyd and Cochrane said he’s very grateful for what she did for him.
“She works very hard to keep people safe and I am so proud of her for what she does,” he said.
While Cst. Floyd was the one who organized the effort behind Cochrane’s special gift, she said it wasn’t hard to get people on board. “Basically, anybody who had heard about it wanted to be included in it,” she said.
The end result was what Cochrane called “the most amazing day ever ... a dream come true.”