Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Different Perspective: Seeing September 11 Through the Eyes of a Federal Law Enforcement Officer

This year, the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 carries a new and greater significance for me. This new meaning is derived from two developments that occurred in my life in the first half of 2014. The first was that Alison and I visited the 9/11 memorial in New York. I had heard much about the new memorial, but had not yet had the chance to see it in person. By chance we ended up there on February 26, the anniversary of the first World Trade Center Bombing in 1993.

It was an especially poignant time to visit, since the monument memorializes, not only those who were killed at that site in 2001, but also those who perished in Washington DC, and Pennsylvania, as well as the victims of
of the 1993 bombing. Every day flowers are placed in the etched names of any victim who would have celebrated a birthday on that day. On February 26, a special group or roses adorned the section of the memorial dedicated to the 1993 attack.

The memorial is beautifully designed, with water pouring down on all four sides of the footprints of both the north and south towers. The water then pools together in the bottom, before plummeting down anew, into the unknown, beyond the scope of our vision. It is a simple design, but a highly evocative one that allows for personal interaction and poignant reflection.

Each of the names are etched into the sides of the memorial such that light can shine through at night and flowers can be placed inside each name in the manner described above. Several of those names are not names at all, but rather a denotation of unborn children who perished in their mother's womb before ever being given the chance to see the world at all.

In a nation where so many people fight to deny the unborn any recognition of life, it was particularly impactful for me to see those innocents memorialized in this manner.

The memorial also includes a special section devoted to the first responders who perished in their attempts to secure the scene and save the lives of anyone they could.

It is this section of the memorial that grips me the most as I sit down to write today. My perspective of the role of first responders has changed significantly as a result of the other new development I experienced this spring: being offered and accepting a permanent position helping to Protect and Interpret American History in our nation's capital.

I have spent the last four months in training learning what it means to be devoted to protecting the core of the United States of America. At its heart, the job is about safeguarding an idea, the idea that this nation is something special in the scope of world history. For all its faults (and I believe there are many), this nation and the manner in which it was created is truly unique. And I, for one, believe that it represents something that is worth fighting to sustain.

This final picture is one of my favorites that I took when we were in New York. In it you see a tree, just west of the south tower and south of the north tower, which still lives today, despite both towers coming down directly around it. Behind this tree can be seen the new World Trade Center building, rising above the city of New York as a symbol that that idea cannot be so easily overcome. Life that hung on through the devastation foregrounds reconstruction of a nation that accommodates remembrance and honor for the fallen.

So today, the 13th anniversary of the the 9/11 attacks, remember all of those who lost their lives that day, but give particular attention to the firefighters and law enforcement officers who rushed into danger to save others without hesitation. For many of them it was the last action they ever took, and that is something that is worth remembering.    

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