Arresting Tales

September 11, 8 years later

8 years is a long time, but sometimes it seems like last week.

My family was getting ready to leave for a canoe trip in Wisconsin that morning.  The car was packed, my bride was writing out instructions for the dog walker, and my girls were getting their boots on in the living room while the TV played in the background.  "Hey dad, an airplane just crashed into the World Trade Center".

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Craig Allen/Getty Images

We've talked about this a number of times since then, and we all agree that we were lucky to spend the next 3 days in the middle of nowhere, away from any television or radio.  We were spared all those repeated images of people jumping and buildings crashing.  8 years later, and we're still trying to make sense of that day.  The National September 11 Memorial & Museum announced its "Make History" campaign, and is looking for new videos and images from that day.

Some people think I'm being sarcastic when I say that, in the 20 years I've been on the job, the best time to be a police officer was during the weeks following September 11, 2001.  People really did behave better for a little while, and when someone waved at you as you drove by in a squad car they used all their fingers.  People tried to buy you lunch, and would say "thank you for your service" for no reason other than you were standing there in a uniform.  It became awkward, being treated as a surrogate hero, a stand-in for the officers in New York who truly sacrificed that day.

This morning I'll be presenting colors at a memorial service with my department's honor guard.  September 11, 2001 was the deadliest day in American law enforcement history.  72 law enforcement officers were killed, including 23 NYPD officers and 37 Port Authority officers.  The names of all the officers who died can be found here at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund website.  For a sobering list of other numbers and statistics relating to that day, New York Magazine has this page: September 11 by Numbers.

CLTV has a good selection of video and images relating to 9/11 events.

It's fitting that September 11 has been designated a National Day of Service and Remembrance.  Take some time today, say a prayer, observe a moment of silence, whatever you're comfortable with.  Do something decent and useful for a neighbor.  Remember that there are men and women out there who willingly run into situations that normal people run away from. 

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9 Comments

Dr X said:

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"Some people think I'm being sarcastic when I say that, in the 20 years I've been on the job, the best time to be a police officer was during the weeks following September 11, 2001."

It really was noticeable, even without being a police officer. For a little while, we experienced an air of decency.

Moshucat said:

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Leave a comment...

Donovan said:

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On this I was on the way to school going downtown, everyone on the train was trying to make a call. When i got off the train people were saying that the Sears Tower aka Willis Tower was next. After that I went to go pick my daughter and went home.
Please check out http://Inchitown.MyCityToolbar.com

jeff courter said:

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8 years later, Joe - thanks for your service. I'm one of those who felt compelled to "run in" when others might choose to run away. I've been wearing a uniform, but my role has been a bit different.

I'm a middle-aged civilian who volunteered to leave my comfortable family life in suburban Chicago to fight in Afghanistan. And, as is the case with so many Americans touched by 9/11, my life will never be the same.

But I'm troubled by recent events...

U.S. leaders and citizens apparently are tiring of the complex and inconvenient realities of a war halfway around the world. As they increasingly shift their attention toward pressing domestic issues (jobs, healthcare and an uncertain economy), Afghanistan becomes "so 10 years ago."

But where does that leave us now on 9/11? Are we really so collectively short-sighted that we don't remember New York City?

What are we to tell the innocent 3000 civilians who lost their lives on that fateful day? What do we tell their families? That those Americans died for absolutely nothing? That merely by going to work that morning, they deserved to die? Or that we simply find it no longer relevant enough to act in their defense?

I don't have the answers. And indeed, our leaders' goals, strategies and tactics may be imperfect.

But if we choose to forget because it's no longer "convenient" or "comfortable" to consider this war on terror a priority, we're not only abandoning our past, but we're also no doubt sealing the fate of OTHERS who will suffer in the FUTURE. It's only a matter of time.

When I served in Afghanistan in 2007, HMMWVs displayed NYC skylines on their turrets, emblazoned with slogans like "Never Forget" and "I Love NY." Trust me, soldiers remember why they're fighting the murderous Taliban.

And make no mistake - al Qaeda terrorists will continue to celebrate 9/11 as a great victory. THEY will never forget. Neither should we.

Jeff Courter, Author
Afghan Journal: A Soldier's Year in Afghanistan
Book site - http://www.afghanistan-journal.com
Blog - http://www.lifeloveandtruth.com

Joe the Cop said:

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Jeff, thanks for stopping by, thanks for commenting and most of all, thank you for your service. I'm looking forward to reading your blog and your book. A friend of mine just returned from Afghanistan in April, after spending a year training Afghan police officers. It sounded hairy.

Donovan, it's something, how we all remember that, isn't it? My kids still talk about it from time to time.

Dr X, you're right. Remember people introducing themselves to their fellow passengers on airplanes?

jeff courter said:

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Thanks Joe - I'd be happy to send you a copy of my book, if you'd like. You're right - training border police in a desperately poor, distant and dangerous place is hairy! But patrolling the streets of Chicago is no picnic, either! Will look forward to following your "beat" on ChicagoNow.

Betsy said:

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On 9/11/01 I was the public information officer for one of the Town governments in Westchester County, NY. It was and is in part a bedroom community for New York City, and was shaken to its core. The police, firefighters and emergency service workers there, organized by the chief of police, all at some point went down to the city to help in some way, mostly as backup for on-going security efforts. (Some of them also worked on security on the Hudson River for many weeks afterward.) Other Town residents wanted to help, so the scheduled Community Day in the Town center on the weekend following the attack became an occasion for them to bring supplies that were needed in the cleanup/recovery efforts: shovels, work boots, jackets, whatever. They came in soberly but clearly with relief at being able to do something, anything. People felt so helpless, and this was action.

Although the Town lost "only" four residents when the towers came down, everyone knew them and also knew people from the surrounding areas who had died. In addition, many, many others worked in the Wall Street area and had been among the thousands who had been streaming north, covered with dust and debris from the falling towers, or fleeing to the Hudson to board one of the many ships and boats that ferried people across the Hudson to New Jersey.

Personally, I have a niece who worked and lived near the WTC, saw the first plane hit as she was talking with her boss in their office a couple of blocks away and then walked uptown to a friend's apartment on the Upper West Side to escape. My older daughter, caught in stopped traffic in Brooklyn on her driving commute to work, saw the towers collapse from there and found herself comforting a sobbing firefighter, also out of his car transfixed by the sight of the burning Trade Center against the lovely blue sky - he knew that many of his band of brothers had been lost in that collapse. No one here will ever forget. The day is forever etched in our memories, sometimes searingly. How sad is it, though, that the sense of unity that grew in the country for a while after the attacks has been frittered away over the years until we have today's really shocking behavior and loss of civility in public and sometimes private discussions.

Wendy C said:

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We are often told to honor our soldiers who have given their lives in conflicts overseas. But, in my opinion, we don't take enough time to remember the policemen and firemen who have lost their lives while keeping us safe day to day. Thanks

Amy Guth said:

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Great post, Joe.

As a former Manhattan resident, eight years later, I still have a pretty solid cluster of emotions about the day and, frankly, I find myself rarely wanting to discuss any aspect of the subject with anyone who did not also live in NY.

Unfortunately, so many posts on the subject skew almost sanctimonious in nature, though I know they're written with the best of intentions. I get the effort, but I just can't let myself go there because it always seems to gloss over something or run off of awful cliches and leave me feeling frustrated in the end.

What I'm saying is, thanks for a straightforward post. No buzz-phrases, no cliches, just a nice post about the time as your experienced it. I appreciate that in a post, Joe. Particularly in this area.

Great resources in the links, too. Thanks.

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