The .40-caliber bullet was fired Sunday morning one week ago, at about 26 minutes after 2. Court documents locate the crime at the intersection of North Civic Plaza and East Stetson Drive in Old Town Scottsdale. Really, though, the murder of Captain Kyle Brayer is a crime with echoes all across this Valley, this state, this world of ours. Because if you can measure a human being by the sum total of the lives he or she touches, then Kyle Brayer, who died two weeks short of turning 35 years old, lived more than any 10 of us.
Son. Brother. Marine. Firefighter. Entrepreneur. Teacher. Traveler. Leader. Hero.
Kyle Brayer was all of those things. This is what makes the loss of such a fine man so tragic, even as his life is so worth celebrating. This is what you think about when you think about the single round fired from Hezron Parks’ Smith & Wesson handgun Sunday one week ago.
You think about Kyle Brayer and his dad, Art, the father he called “Pops.” You think about the credo Art spoke into Kyle’s ear from childhood on – that in this life anything is possible, if only you are willing to pay the price. Art’s advice and example drove Kyle, say those who knew him. He was talented, sure, but he was also perfectly willing to outwork you, outhustle you, outlast you. And then offer you a gentlemanly hand up when you could no longer stand.
You think about Kyle Brayer in the aftermath of September 11th, 18 years old, a teenager raised in a home where the American flag was the most venerated cloth imaginable. Kyle’s grandfather served in World War II with honors. Years later, Kyle would tell the ASU State Press why he joined the Marines in 2002.
“I had wanted to be a Marine since I was 10 years old,” was how Kyle explained his decision.
You think of Kyle Brayer as a sergeant with the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, fighting his way through Baghdad and Al Qa’Im city, building bombs and rockets, a consummate soldier who survived the carnage of the Iraq War, only to die on a Scottsdale roadway at the hands of a bloodthirsty fool with a handgun.
The thought is enough to make you weep or want to lock your hands around Hezron Parks’ throat. Except then you think of Kyle Brayer on a 911 call, a captain leading Ladder Company 276 toward a blaze, a paramedic tending to abrasions and wounds, heart attacks and hurts, a healer, a force for good in Fire Station 6 along East Ash Avenue and throughout Tempe.
Thus inspired, you regain your better self. Thoughts of evil dwindle away and Kyle Brayer touches your life as he did so many others.
You think of Kyle Brayer, world traveler, journeying through scores of countries. Kyle atop Kilimanjaro. Kyle plodding through the snow to summit Mount Rainier. Kyle diving amid great white sharks off Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. At the Sochi Olympics in 2014. At the base of the Eiffel Tower. On the Isle of Skye. Hiking down to Havasupai Falls. Posed on a rock near Half Dome in Yosemite. You think of everyone he met, every friend he made, every life he made better, if only for a moment, a minute, an hour.
You think of Kyle Brayer as the best of us, gone too soon, but never forgotten. Because you think of everyone he inspired and you know that that good part of him – the best part of Kyle Brayer – will outlive any gunshot, any bullet, and even time itself.
– David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact email@example.com.