It's been a sad week for many in western Washington after a Tacoma police officer was killed in the line of duty. The death of Officer Jake Gutierrez comes as many are starting to celebrate the holidays and a Maple Valley family decided to use their light display to try and help the fallen officer’s family.
In a week marked by darkness and sadness, the elaborate display gave people a chance to smile and celebrate. Jim Winder said there’s about 40,000 lights in the display that are synchronized to music that broadcasts on speakers and through a radio transmitter.
“Every year I keep adding more,” Winder said. “Keep telling myself I'm not going to add more, because it adds more work.”
Winder says he’s in a club, a sort of support group, for Christmas light aficionados. He works on it all year spending countless hours planning, programming, and building the show. He says he gets his payoff in the smiles of the children who come to see it.
After Gutierrez was killed, Winder decided to make a small addition to the 90 minute program.
“Right away, I said we just got to do something for him and support them,” Winder said.
He was up until 1 a.m., adding a sequence that featured blue lights and a special song.
“(It’s) just a focal point for the community and a gateway to grieve or give however they want to” Winder said.
They are gathering donations for the officer’s family but Winder says it doesn't feel like enough.
“There’s nothing I can do to bring him back,” he said.
It’s given this holiday new perspective.
“You just got to wonder how bad things get to come to that,” he said. “I just can’t fathom it.”
The display had an obvious impact on many who saw it. There was still plenty of electric Christmas cheer dancing across the lawn, but Winder hopes the contrast of the blue lights makes a mark that lasts long beyond the holidays.
In addition to the home in Maple Valley, the family has a display at a home in West Seattle. View more information about the two light displays on westseattlelights.com.