Giovanni Esposito was only 30 years old. He died in a car crash on Route 1 in Linden. He was a police officer in Hillside for only a few months. Hired less than a year ago, he graduated top of his class from the Essex County Police Academy.

That's not why he died a hero.

At 2:15 a.m. Monday morning he along with a passenger collided with an International trailer cab on Route 1 at Pleasant Avenue. His vehicle overturned. He and his passenger were taken to Newark University Hospital where Esposito died and the second victim remained in serious condition.

That's not why he died a hero.

He was not on duty at the time. Furthermore, as of this writing the police are still investigating the accident and no conclusions have been drawn as to whether a particular driver was at fault.

Hillside Police Chief Vincent Riccardi issued a statement saying Officer Esposito "loved his job and was a warm and friendly person who was well-liked by all who knew him. He prided himself on serving the community of Hillside with diligence and compassion. His death is a profound loss to our department and we will miss him terribly. We wish his family solace and comfort during this extremely difficult time."

Why was Giovanni Esposito a true hero?

Because of when he chose to become an officer.

During the most terrible time in this nation to be in law enforcement, Esposito stepped up. At a time when cops are shown no respect and given no benefit of the doubt, he chose to put on that uniform every day. When black lives matter and blue lives seem not to, when police have been vilified and targeted and ambushed, he didn't let that stop him from serving his community. He didn't die saving a child nor did he die in a gun battle, or a high speed police pursuit, or even on duty for that matter.

Yet every single day he was willing to.

He was willing to at a time when police are frowned upon and protested by millionaires on football fields and scorned and ridiculed. He wasn't an old-timer a few years away from retirement who could look back on his profession to a time when people knew a hero when they saw one. He came into this field with eyes wide open at the most difficult time in history to be a police officer. Not enough backing. Not enough respect. Not even gratitude. Yet he did it anyway.

So that's why this officer, whose name you won't remember and whose time was far too short, is indeed a hero of the most amazing kind.

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