September 11th, 2001
There likely isn’t a person in America who wasn’t touched in some way by the experience of September 11th. I was a police officer when this attack occurred and in the days that followed these horrific events I had time to consider how I was personally touched by this experience. Of course our emotions gravitate towards the part of our psyche that is most vulnerable and in this case it was the loss of so many police officers at the World Trade Center. In law enforcement there is an incredible bond that cops feel with one another. With the exception of fire fighters I can’t think of other professions that are like this. Without a doubt it is because we are convinced – and rightly so that no one else can truly understand our experience. Because of that I did understand why these officers were willing to pay the ultimate price at the World Trade Center on that previously unimaginable day.
What follows is what I wrote shortly after September 11th. It was late at night and I was sitting in the dark – both figuratively and literally in the care and company of my good friend Jack Daniels.
If you know me then you knew them.
As I contemplate the horror of the September 11th attack on our great
country I tend to think, “I can’t imagine.” Yet as I contemplate
further I realize that, in a small way, I really can imagine.
I can’t imagine what it was like at the end for the poor souls on the
airliner. I can’t imagine what it was like for the innocent people in
the buildings that were attacked. But I can imagine what it was like
for the officers who died in their valiant efforts to save total
I can imagine this because I am a cop. Being a cop is a strange thing.
We are all, for the most part, the same exact thing. Just as a
McDonalds cheeseburger is the same either in your town or three
thousand miles away- the same can be said for cops. We all tend to be
very much like each other.
As such I know what it was like for these men and women in law
enforcement as they faced their death. Their response was no different
than mine would have been, no different from those of the cops who work
for me. No different than that of cops if it had happened three
thousand miles away.
These cops saw danger that others ran from. These cops ran towards it.
Others ran out to save themselves. These cops ran in to save others.
These cops, who through their careers have been vilified and mocked by
the general population tried, heroically, to save those who may well
have been their detractors.
These brave officers were under no obligation to enter these buildings.
The credo that “Cops fight crime and firefighters fight fires” didn’t
occur to them. They knew that people needed help and they didn’t
hesitate. Just like I wouldn’t hesitate and just like the cop three
thousand miles away wouldn’t hesitate.
These brave men and women of law enforcement had husbands, wives,
children and other family and friends that cared for them greatly. Just
as I do. These brave men and women, unhesitatingly, sacrificed all of
that in the service of total strangers. Just as I would have and just
as the cop three thousand miles away would have.
My prayer is that their experience of death was quick and
To my friends and family I boldly suggest this- If you know me then you
knew them. They are no different than me, no different from the cop
three thousand miles away. We are no different. We are one.