Policeman believes prayer led to lives saved

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In 2006, Federick Yap was a new Fairfax County Police officer working the graveyard shift and looking for a place to file a report. He decided to pull into the parking lot of St. Thomas à Becket Church in Reston. 

“I didn’t realize I was in front of the Virgin Mary statue (and) I didn’t put any strong emphasis on it because being Catholic, it was normal for me,” he said. “And then I don’t know how it started and why it started, but I just offered a short prayer to the Virgin Mary and made it a practice (before every shift).”

Yap believes Mary’s intercession helped him — along with other police officers and medical professionals — to save the lives of three women during his time on duty, as each save occurred after prayer. “She is the protector of women,” he said. 

Yap grew up in the Philippines and attended Catholic schools. He graduated from San Beda University in Manila, and moved to the United States in 1987. He got married and is the father of two children — a daughter in middle school and a son in college. The family attends All Saints Church in Manassas. For the past 12 years, he’s worked as a patrolman.

“I thought it was a calling,” said Yap. “It’s not only about traffic and criminal arrests. It's also about public service and helping people. At night, people will have a flat tire, run out of gas and we help them. For senior citizens, they cannot close windows and we don’t mind doing that. If a vehicle is in the middle of the road, we push all those cars.” Policemen and women are there during moments of inconvenience, but also during life and death situations. 

On a slow July night in 2011, Yap finished praying a rosary in front of St. Thomas Church when he got a call about a suicidal woman at Great Falls Park. As Yap and the other police officers approached her, she dove into the river. Wearing his uniform and a bulletproof vest, Yap and another officer followed her into the fast-moving water. 

“It was extremely dark and foggy, and we had very poor visibility. At that part of the Potomac, the chance of survival is only 20 percent,” he said. Water rescue was not a part of his police training. Yet the two of them were able to drag the woman to the rocks. She survived and was taken to the hospital.  

Yap was grateful for everyone’s survival, “but I never thought about (the fact that) I came from the church,” he said. “It did not click yet.” 

On a spring night in 2015, Yap had finished his rosary at St. Thomas when he got a call about a woman who had been shot multiple times by her husband. His whole squad arrived at the scene and managed to remove the woman from her home. “I was with her from the sidewalk to the ambulance and all the way to the emergency room,” he said. 

Yap kept pressure on her wounds so she wouldn’t bleed out, not knowing which wound was most serious. “I honestly thought she would die. It was not a good moment,” he said. “I kept praying nonstop.” And she lived.

A few months later, he learned that the woman was friends with another police officer. So Yap asked the officer to give the woman the rosary he had used on the night she was shot. “I don’t care if she's religious or not, it's not my business, but I wanted to give it to her,” he said. “I think about her every day.”

As his Marian devotion grew, Yap overheard Father William B. Schardt, pastor of St. Thomas, say that the Mary statue needed to be refurbished. So he volunteered. “I had not done any artwork before, so I was scared to do it,” said Yap. But he enjoyed the process of sanding, priming and repainting the image. Since then, he’s restored two other statues of Mary. During the warmer months, he likes to put flowers in front of the statue where it all began. 

In May 2016, Yap received a call that a woman was in danger of hurting herself. When he and another officer arrived at her home, no one answered the door. Yap heard a car engine running in the garage, so they broke down the door, only to be met with thick carbon monoxide fumes. 

“There were two car engines running, a woman was unconscious and both of us were having problems breathing,” said Yap. “We opened the garage door to let the air in and I dragged her out of the car into the driveway and (started) CPR.” Eventually, the woman began breathing and moving, and today, she’s doing fine, he said. 

Three bars are pinned above the pocket on Yap’s police uniform, each awarded for his role in saving these women’s lives. He refers to each medal by the name of the woman. In his police bag are the rosaries he uses to pray when he gets a few quiet moments during long night shifts. 

“Rain or shine, hot and cold, I will see her. I believe she helps me make the best decision,” he said. “You don’t expect this to happen three times. For me, these are miracles.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018

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