Mike Failace: When You’re Walking Through Hell, Keep Walking

This journey of life is never a straight road. There are peaks and valleys, twists and turns, often putting you on an offramp in the direction that you never saw yourself traveling.  If our life had a GPS, most of us would throw it out of the window, thinking that it was broken. Little do we know that the GPS of life has markers and waypoints meant to take us on a path that we are destined to drive. Keeping us safe from potential hazards, even when we think we’re going in the wrong direction.

Mike Failace was born into a family filled with love. Both his father and mother looked upon their two boys as a source of inspiration and legacy. Their love for their two children was not strong enough to keep them together and when Mike was six years old, they divorced. While they could not remain a married couple, never did they disregard their obligation to raise two healthy well adjusted human beings.

Growing up in the Bergen County town of North Arlington NJ, young Mike’s life was all about sports.  The camaraderie of the team, the physicality and athleticism of the task at hand, and the values of hard work and perseverance were the values embedded into his personality.  Always there to encourage him. Mike’s mother and father applauded his resilience at such a young age.

Mike’s acumen as a football player showed through, allowing him to be accepted into a top-notch football program of Seton Hall Preparatory School.   Performing at a very high-level at this prestigious high school further cemented Mike’s core values, and prepared him for the next phase of his career.

Mike’s athletic ability gave him the opportunity to further his athletic career in college for Widener University. Moving on from college and entering the workforce, Mike became a union pipefitter. Forever burned in his memory is the sight of his uncle in his police uniform coming in and commanding respect. Pants pressed, shoes shined, and the beautifully polished brass of the uniform was one of the more impressive sites this young man could witness. Mike’s uncle was the epitome of what a law-enforcement officer should be, brave, courageous, steadfast. While Mike worked other jobs, his career focus was always, an attempt to do the profession that he saw was his calling.

Finally, after years of trying, he was accepted into the Bergen County Sheriff’s department and began his law enforcement career. Mike found out quickly. What law-enforcement is all about. It is a sense of purpose, duty, and honor. Arriving at places when others run away. All the same values ingrained into his personality as a child fared well in his new line of work.

Police officers such as Mike are always in high demand. In a short time he had multiple offers from other departments to transfer and chose the department in the town he resided. Mike Failace became the newest officer in the Lyndhurst Police Department in New Jersey.  Working for a small municipality, the community is a family where once you’re woven into that fabric you are an essential part of this special place. Working in Lyndhurst allowed Mike to become part of that fabric and served his community proudly for many years.

Mike was traveling that straight path in the direction he believed was meant for his destiny. On the night of September 14, 2014 that path would take a sharp U-turn.  Working as a road Sergeant on a midnight shift, the crack of the radio cries out that a carjacked vehicle at gunpoint in a neighboring town was heading their way. Another officer picked up the pursuit and the chase was on. Driving 25 miles, an hour down the roadway in the distance, Mike could see the suspect vehicle heading straight towards him with no headlights. What he didn’t know was that the two suspects inside the vehicle made a pact with one another to get away by any means necessary.

Quickly, Mike makes a U-turn turning the quiet night into a life or death situation. The suspect vehicle crashes into the Jersey barrier of a bridge and multiple officers get out in an attempt to remove the occupants of the vehicle and mitigate the potential risk to the town residents. The suspect vehicle did not stop and began ramming the police cars. Mike approached the vehicle on the driver side as the vehicle spun its tires, spraying road debris and burnt rubber all over his uniform.

“The smell of the brakes burning and the burnt rubber still fill my nose from time to time”. The driver of the vehicle began to reach for something under the seat, which turned out to be a gun, forcing a volley of bullets. With one shot to the head, the driver slumped over.  The vehicle was still spinning its tires, and as Mike went around to the passenger side to turn the vehicle off. Reaching into the car the passenger popped up into Mike’s face Which startled him to his soul. Had that passenger had a weapon Mike surely wouldn’t be here today.  

On that night in September, Mike had gone to work for the very last time.   Because he was a member of the community and the tightly woven fabric, word got around very quickly that he had to do his duty as a police officer and stop this criminal from causing further collateral damage. Most Police work is helping people, but there are moments when you must do something you are never prepared for, and don’t know how to react. 

Shortly after the shooting, all the trappings of post traumatic stress struck Mike like a lightning bolt. The sleepless nights, the horrible dreams, the uncontrollable startle response, were all part of this new road that Mike was driving down. 

Coupled with the crippling effects of post traumatic stress, all police officers, when there’s a shooting, must go to the Attorney General’s office for review. For 15 months, Mike Failace sat with a potential murder indictment hanging over his head. Unable to work and unable to cope, spiraled Mike’s life out of control.  Mike was walking into the depths of his own personal hell. 

Finally, finding solace through Group therapy involving other officers who had been in similar incidents, Mike finally started to climb his way out. He had to lean into his grief and trauma and run towards the fire. To keep walking, even though he was in hell. 

Taking that help one step further, Mike and his partner, Kevin P Donaldson began The Suffering Podcast to highlight stories of others who have also overcome adversity and thrived.  Mike’s willingness to lend a helping hand to those in need move forward, never wanting a thank you only requiring your willingness to help another further down the road.

Mike has always been heavily involved in the Special Olympics due to his civic minded nature and love for sports. Seeing young athletes with disabilities perform with such love and respect for competition refills and replenishes Mike soul.

The road Mike traveled has been anything but straight. Since he can never be that police officer that he so longed to be in his youth, he still carries on the same lessons and ideologies that he believed in as a child. Hard work, honor, courage, and perseverance to give to the stranger in need and teaching the lessons learned throughout his life. 

The Suffering Podcast

A truly terrifying and inspiring episode that will give you chills and awaken your desire to reshape your Suffering and transform it into something used for the betterment of your fellow human beings.  Retired Lt. Mike Failace is in the crucible to recount his Suffering story and redemption.   Mike is an amazing person whom I’m honored to call my brother.https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-suffering-podcast/id1546018463?i=1000509028346

Kevin P. Donaldson
Kevin P. Donaldson

An accomplished author, seasoned Motivational Speaker and Podcast Host, Kevin P. Donaldson is known for transforming the lives of audiences. His talks are attended by people of all ages and backgrounds. Kevin's approach toward finding success and healing is approached by embracing your pain and running toward it head-on.

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