OSKALOOSA — Local stores are experiencing a shortage of blue lights as the community comes together to honor the life of Oskaloosa Police Officer Ian Barnhart, who died last month.
Lauren Terrell, a reserve firefighter and friend, created #goblueforIan to mourn and honor Barnhart’s life and service to the Oskaloosa Police Department.
“Finding out what had happened put me in shock, because I had just talked to him the same day,” says Terrell. “It really threw me for a loop.”
Terrell first met Barnhart while working the emergency room switchboard overnight at Mahaska Health Partnership. Barnhart had just been hired as a police officer.
“We’d been friends ever since,” says Terrell. “Even though I don’t work the ER anymore, I would still see him at the fire department, and if he was driving around town, he would stop at the station and chit-chat and catch up with friends.”
Terrell remembers Barnhart’s great sense of humor and strong camaraderie.
“He was such a goofball,” says Terrell. “He was also such a kind person. If he ever saw me walking, he would always stop and chit-chat. Working overnight definitely drags on, and he would always come to keep us company.”
In order to try to process Barnhart’s death, Terrell purchased a blue light to shine outside her home. For Terrell, the blue light is also a symbol of support for the police department.
“I wanted to show them that I support them, but I also understand what they’re going through,” says Terrell. “I feel like it was really sudden, and they have to continue working, even the same day it happened. So, I wanted them to know that I’m here for them. I know this is hard right now.”
Neighbors and coworkers began asking Terrell about the blue light, and pretty soon, others were shining a light to show their support. The Oskaloosa Fire Department and Mahaska Health Partnership are also going blue for Ian.
Terrell encourages the community to show their support by posting a picture of their blue lights on social media with the hashtag #goblueforIan until his celebration of life on Saturday. Terrell plans to keep her light on until the end of July.
“I hope we can get the town to go blue as much as possible,” says Terrell.