WELLINGTON -- Under a gray sky, cadets assemble for another long day of training at the Institute of Public Safety. Despite intermittent showers, their shoes are shiny black and the crisp laundry creases stand out on their uniform shirts. Among them is Sean Reyka, 25, who will be graduating in September and joining the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
His class number is 283. His father, Sgt. Chris Reyka of Wellington, was a member of class 143. Chris Reyka, a Broward sheriff’s sergeant on road patrol, was shot to death by an unidentified assailant on Aug. 10, 2007, five years ago, in the parking lot of a Walgreens drugstore in Pompano Beach.
Reyka’s son is intent on following him into a career in law enforcement.
Sean Reyka’s decision to become a deputy in the same department as his father was not abrupt, but it was certainly tinged by the deep emotion of losing his father.
Sean Reyka was in the Marines when his father died, and they had discussed the possibility of his becoming a deputy after leaving the military. Still, it seems a risky life choice in the aftermath of his father’s violent death, which remains unsolved.
“She wasn’t thrilled,” Sean Reyka said of his mother, Kim. “But she was more OK with me becoming a police officer than trying to disarm bombs in Afghanistan. I’m sure she would rather I did something far from danger, so I guess this was the lesser of two evils.”
“Of course it was the last thing I’d want him to do,” Kim Reyka said. “Chris loved what he did, but he didn’t want his children to go into that. He just wanted something better for them. I think he’ll be good at it. It’s what he wants to do. Sometimes I have to remind myself that God brings your children to the world through you.”
When your world is torn apart at a young age, when you lose your father in such a heart-sickening way, people would understand if you stayed torn apart for the rest of your life.
Despite, or because of, what happened to them, all four Reyka children have chosen to use their lives to hold together an uncertain world.
“Life continues,” said Ashley Reyka Steele, the oldest. “It’s going to continue whether or not we want it to.”
Sean and his sister Autumn were drawn to uphold law and order. Autumn Reyka is working on a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Florida Atlantic University. Both describe a sense of mission, a desire to serve others. Ashley Reyka Steele is an emergency room nurse, helping people in health crises. The youngest, Spencer, 18, will start a demanding double major in physics and civil engineering at the University of Florida in a few weeks. He intends to design some of the bridges and roads that hold the world together.
Though he looks younger than his age, Sean Reyka has a solemnity about him. Part of it is the sir-and-ma’am military courtesy he learned in the Marines. Part of it comes from losing his dad, knowing that life can be snatched away.
“Sometimes I look at people my age today, drinking, running around, maybe making bad decisions, and I feel like I’m old, 50 or 60,” he said. He goes to sleep at 10 p.m. because he has to drive from Wellington to the police academy in Davie early each morning, five days a week.