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10 years after 9/11: What was it like when...

By Keith Bettinger
Secretary, Public Safety Writers Association
Special Contributor to PoliceOne

I enjoy studying history. I watch the history channel, read the tomes of Stephen Ambrose, and love to read historical novels. I am a baby boomer, a member of the generation that came to be when our heroes returned from World War II.

When I read about the attack on Pearl Harbor I wonder what went through the minds of the American public as they heard the news that the American Military had been attacked. I wondered what it was like to be suddenly pulled into a war. My mother can still tell me stories about rationing, food and gas coupons, and friends going off to war. Every community has a memorial to those friends and heroes who did not return.

The war of my generation was a long and protracted one. It too has many heroes that are now growing gray. It was not like World War II. It had been around for years, and slowly swallowed up the youth of the United States. Our veterans were not treated with the respect they deserved. The Viet Nam war did not answer for our generation the question, ‘What was it like when Pearl Harbor was attacked?’

Now we have our answer. On September 11, 2001, terrorists stole our aging innocence. On that day, America was plunged into a new war; probably different than any other it has ever fought. This time our military was not the only target. Symbols of American pride were destroyed. Along with the twin towers went thousands of civilians working in many different occupations, while they tried to secure the American dream. Stolen from us along with all those civilians are the heroes of the New York City Fire Department, the New York City Police Department the Port Authority Police Department and the military and civilian personnel at the Pentagon, who went into the burning buildings to rescue people while others were fleeing for their lives.

In the history of law enforcement and fire fighting, losses of these staggering proportions have never been seen before. The losses from this horrific event took more lives than those lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Baby Boomers who wanted to know what it was like when Pearl Harbor was attacked and America was plunged into war, now have their answer. The ‘other’ generation can tell you where they were on December 7, 1941. Many generations can tell you where they were when they received the news that President John F. Kennedy was killed, and now we all will remember where we were on September 11, 2001. We now know what it was like when the United States was attacked and plunged into war. It has happened to us.

May God Bless America!

About the author

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