"Where are you?" police officials asked Trish Mundy. "We need you to come to the police station...avoid the interstate."
Time stood still that day for Mt. Juliet. But, so many people remember the day, like yesterday.
It was July 9, 2003. It was chaos at the Mt. Juliet off ramp on Interstate 40. Senseless carnage. A fleeing Maryville felon mowed down two of Wilson County's finest while they tried to stop her high-speed flight from police with spike strips. The felon swerved into both Wilson County Sheriff's Deputy John Musice and MJPD Sgt. Jerry Mundy. She's now serving two life sentences in a Memphis prison.
They didn't have a chance. For them, it ended on the pavement that Wednesday doing what they had sworn to do. Then-veteran Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe sank to his knees with his head in his hands when he arrived at the scene. Local officers buckled in grief and, even today, a shade goes down over their faces when Jerry's name is uttered.
It was a shock that reverberated nationally, and, when that clock started back again, you could say the tight-knit community was re-calibrated. Things are not really the same.
A new normal.
Especially for Trish, Jerry's widow of 13 years.
Trish hasn't really spoken publicly of the traumatic event that day she says not only changed her and her family's life forever, but also shaped the fabric of "little Mt. Juliet." However, friend Greg Graves speaks today, as does now-MJPD Chief James Hambrick. They will never forget.
Jerry was a leader at the MJPD. He was a sergeant, on the job about 14 years, with prior service with the Wilson County Sherriff's Office.
"He was on day shift," Trish remembered. "It was a small department back then, so I knew he was likely working the streets."
His badge number was #7.
Kenneth Martin was MJPD chief, and Ted Floyd assistant chief. James Hambrick was the department's chaplain.
It happened around 9:36 a.m. Officers began the pursuit of Fallon Tallent out of Maryville, then Knoxviile. When she and a female passenger entered Wilson County, local officers began pursuit again at speeds reaching 140 mph.
"I was working in Donelson," said Trish, who is the mother of girls Taiylor, then 12, and Rachael, 10. Theirs was a blended family with two boys as well.
A friend's daughter called and let Trish know there was a bad accident on the interstate that involved a police officer.
"I knew Jerry was working day shift that day," she remembers.
Out of caution, she called police dispatch. After some other calls, someone asked where she was.
"That I needed to come to the police station," Trish said. "I just keep remembering saying 'you need to tell me he's alive.'"
They implored she come. She soon realized they couldn't tell her that he was alive.
Because the interstate was shut down and traffic diverted, Trish said she remembers details like it happened minutes ago. Traffic was congested, she was with office friends, and they could barely get into the police department.
"People were standing everywhere," she said. "I knew, before they told me. I wasn't told to rush to the hospital or anything."
It was slow motion when Hambrick and Floyd ushered her into an office.
"I knew Jerry and another officer were killed," she said. "There was much confusion about Fallon Tallent and her passenger Dorothy Cash at first. Some rumors they were teenagers, others one was killed when she ran down Jerry and John.
LifeFlight was called for the officers but tragically was not needed. However, Trish believes Tallent and Cash got on the LifeFlight helicopter, "I believe in my heart this was an effort to get them away from the scene as quickly as possible. There was so much emotion at that time."
I asked to see Jerry
The day somehow unreeled into a surreal scene of securing her two daughters and the boys, her mom and dad swooping in with open arms and an army of friends doing their best to comfort.
"I asked to see Jerry," Trish said softly. "I think it wasn't recommended, but it was my right as a wife."
She finally decided not to and did not allow anyone else.
"I think that hurt some feelings," she recalled. "But, I know it was my call, and I know Jerry well enough he would never want anyone to see him that way."
Jerry was 43 when he died.
It took much time for this widow and mother to get her head wrapped around the unthinkable. She's had much counseling and has many close friends. Today she's a local president in C.O.P.S (Concerns of Police Survivors).
She wants all police officers to fill out a form and designate whom their spouse's first responders should be in case of a tragedy.
"Mine were those I had close relationships with," she mentioned.
And while it's been 16 years, some days something is triggered, and it's relived. Sirens, certain movie scenes, a song.
"Flashbacks are a real part of it," she said.
Even dating again was traumatic.
"Jerry was a very outspoken man," she said. "We talked about whatifs. He'd never want me to spend the rest of my life alone."
Not married again, Trish does have a significant other who understands the dreams when Trish wakes up and wonders if Jerry is still alive somehow.
"I never saw him," she said quietly. "There have been some tough times. Jerry always said if something happened to him, God would take care of me. I never dreamed Jerry would never come home. Because, we live in Mt. Juliet. Things like this don't happen here."
Hambrick said "that day will never be forgotten."
Jerry was mentor.
"He recruited me," he said with emotion. "I would not be here if it weren't for him."
They talked on the phone not long before Jerry was killed.
Hambrick saw the carnage. He won't even talk about it much.
"I tried to administer to Trish," he said. "I tried my best. And, you asked, I think Jerry is smiling down. He handpicked me. He will never be forgotten. We've had memorials. We will have them forever."
Trish remarks repeatedly of Graves, then a detective at the department and wife, Terri. They were there from Day One of the tragedy.
"Jerry was fun-loving," Graves said. "He was a great dad and coach. Always a smile."
Graves' office was next door to Jerry's. That morning, "something was off, he wasn't there. The radio traffic didn't seem normal."
He raced to the interstate.
"When I got to the bridge, things slowed down, I felt I was floating," Graves revealed.
He soon realized he had lost a great friend.
'Fallon is a non-event'
"Yes, she's a non-event," Trish said of the woman who killed her husband. "I choose to believe she was the avenue God allowed to take Jerry home. If it had not been his time, God would not allow for this to have happened. She's [Tallent] not bigger than God."
People want to know if Tallent ever said she was sorry. Apparently not.
"You can't apologize for something you don't know the meaning of. She has no concept," Trish said.
She doesn't wish Tallent well, or bad, and said, "I realize this isn't the right answer from a Christian." She feels Tallent is a master manipulator and if she called to say she's sorry, well, "She changed not only my life, but others' drastically."
There's a place she passes on Division Street. The same spot she passed after Jerry's funeral.
"I even said then," Trish whispers, "there's still a chance she can go to heaven. I'm not saying anything. If you have a true conversion of the heart, I think you are eligible for His forgiveness. She destroyed the heart of a community and still can go to heaven."
She didn't say she's forgiven Tallent.
Another Christmas without Jerry is near.
"I have to say after all these years, I still feel blessed," she said. "I'm in a good place. My biggest fear was Jerry would be forgotten. He isn't."
Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org