10 years after 9/11: How 9/11 impacted my police career
Americans will always remember where we were that day, and how it changed our lives — as a nation and as individual people
Two weeks ago, I was in New York City for the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, attending a variety of services to solemnly remember all those who perished on that sunny September morning. We as Americans will always remember where we were that day, and how it changed our lives — as a nation and as individual people. Were you 10-8 out on the streets that day? Was your command staff calling in your off-duty officers and reserves? Were you an academy recruit just beginning your career or were you getting ready to pull the pin?
Last month I asked you to send me an email with your story. Below is a collection of responses sent in from a handful of PoliceOne Members. Ordinarily, I edit these things down in the interest of brevity. In this instance, however, all I did was correct some grammar and a couple of misspelled words here and there, so you’re seeing these members’ thoughts as “raw” as when they were sent to me.
As always, you can add your own story in the comments area below. Okay, let’s get to it.
Sacrifices Made On September 11
September 11, 2001 obviously changed the world but it “flipped” the proverbial “switch” in my 13-year-old brain. That day made me WANT to make a difference in this world and take up the path of the “sheepdog” …just as my father and both of my grandfathers had done. I am now 23 years old and have been a Police Officer for almost one year now. Every day that I strap on the vest, pin the badge, and snap the keepers in their now-customary locations, I am reminded of the sacrifice that our brothers made on that day.
I consider it a privilege to be accepted into this noble profession and I am satisfied in knowing that we honor the sacrifices made by everyone that day by approaching each shift with the same unadulterated and pure ideals that were instilled in my mind at 10:28am on September 11, 2001.
Honored and Remembered Forever
At the time of the tragedy I was 21 years old. When I graduated college I was 23 and immediately left to serve with the U.S. Coast Guard as it had become part of the newly formed Department of Homeland Security. While there I was able to serve my country on the domestic front in a unique capacity. I conducted homeland security patrols, federal law enforcement, and search and rescue operations just north of Chicago on Lake Michigan. The hours were long and there were many sleepless nights when the SAR (Search and Rescue) alarm went off and we went out into the night searching for a disabled boater or person in the water. The lives that we saved made that job what it was.
Back On NYPD ESU
In ‘94 I was promoted to sergeant and by department regulations had to leave the unit. I never gave up trying to get back in even after making Lt. Unfortunately September 11th gave me my opportunity. Due to the nature of ESU’s work they were heavily involved in the rescue operation at ground zero and as such suffered disproportionately high casualties when the towers collapsed. Fourteen of the 23 NYPD officers lost were from ESU. Because of the losses the unit suffered on 9/11and being tasked with not only providing a rescue/recovery effort at the site as well as normal patrol functions and also providing SWAT type security around the city they were stretched very thin to say the least. Due to these shortages ESU put out a call to former members of the unit to volunteer to come back and lend assistance. I was one of 30 or so that answered the call. I was assigned to work the site on the overnight shift from 6pm to 6 am. I wound up spending nine months there till the site closed in May of 2002.
So firstly I got back to the unit. Second I was able to partake in a myriad of training that the NYPD was now offering to certain officers mostly through Homeland Security. I participated in Radiation training out at the Nevada testing grounds, post explosion bomb courses in New Mexico as well a live nerve agent training with the military down in Anniston Alabama. I was also able to get involved with all the T&E we were doing on new equipment, everything from new rifles (Colt M4s), pistols, suppressors, vehicles, and HAZMAT gear. I was also able to participate in many of the “war game” type activities we did such as terrorist takeover of ferry boats, trains, airplanes, attacks in subways and other major transportation hubs. I even became the CO of the NYPD counter sniper team and led them through an increase in manpower, T&E of new equipment etc. I was a recipient of everything that went on in NYC post 9/11 that the NYPD used in order to evolve it’s mission in the new age of policing that we all were facing.
Compelled to Be There
God bless all police officers. God bless our military. God bless America.
A Deeper Understanding
I had no idea the extent of lives lost at the immediate time, but would quickly learn as the rest of the world did the catastrophic loss of lives that occurred that morning. I was able to go down to ground zero within 24 hours to observe the devastation with our protectee and will never forget the images and sounds of that day. We were rushed out of the site as another part of a hotel in the area came crashing down as the devastation of the event continued. The next few days of that week were filled with disbelief that a terror-related event of such magnitude could occur in our country. Everywhere I went in the city I was surrounded by people whose lives had been changed forever, it seemed as though everyone I met had lost someone they knew.
As I stopped by some of the firehouses who lost so many brothers at one time, I couldn’t imagine how anything I could say or do could make a difference, but I know it made me have a deeper understanding and appreciation for those who run into danger when everyone else is running away.
Why Did They Do That, Daddy?
I finished my road detail and went to the station where, with about a dozen police officers, civilians and support staff we stood glued to the television, our mouths agape in disbelief at what we were looking at. I called my wife and we talked about whether or not to pick up our daughters at school we decided not to. When they came home from school, I explained what had happened and showed them on television.
My little girl, Taylor said, “Why did they do that, daddy?”
For the first time in my life, I didn’t have an answer.
From that date in September, 2001 I vowed that I would never forget what happened that day. Recently, I got my first tattoo depicting the firefighters raising the flag on Ground Zero, just as another generation of heroes had done on Iwo Jima so many years ago, with an American Eagle keeping sentry over that scene. I will never forget the heroes that died on that beautiful September morning or the thousands of innocent Americans who lost their lives.
I pray that this doesn’t become an afterthought for those who were alive on that date. God Bless America.
My Utmost Respect
So, in summary, despite still not fully understanding why you invited us to leave in 1776(!), I greatly admire Americans and the values you stand for. The attack on 9/11 also directly affected us and every other country in the world with any notion about liberty and decency. It was frankly shocking.
Anyone who questions why we went to Afghanistan or Iraq, I refer back to 9/11. The world changed on that day.
I have done everything in my power to help the UK effort in dealing with the bad guys since then and with some success. I have also lost some of my soldiers in the process — I have then met their families and you would be impressed that in every case they were proud of what their sons had done. The point is — and the families understand this so the rest of us should too — we have no choice but to face up to the threat and deal with it for as long as it takes. 9/11 spelled it out for us.
All the Americans who faced up to the consequences of 9/11 — armed forces, police, fire service, intelligence agencies, and many others — have my utmost respect.
We Build! We Fight!
I had returned two days prior to my civilian job as a Verizon 411 Supervisor. That day I was assigned as a regular operator. I was about 20 minutes into my shift when I answered a call where a woman said “Send help quick, a plane just hit my building!”
That was how I learned of the incident.
Figuring that it was a small plane that had somehow wandered off course and hit the WTC, I continued taking calls. Soon after, a man called in and asked me for Cushman & Wakefield in Enfield (Conn.). As I was checking the listing, he said “I bet you guys are hopping there!”
I said we were busy, and he informed me he was in Tower 2. I told him “Hey guy, get out of there!” He replied that he was evacuating via the stairwell and the “all clear” was given so he returned to his office. He also said he was there in ‘93 and it wasn’t a big deal.
A few seconds later, a thunderous noise came over the line. (The 2nd plane had hit below his floor). I stayed on the line and was there when he returned. He was dialing while I was still there. I remained on the line with him ‘til the very end. We both knew he wasn’t gong to make it. We never acknowledged that to each other, but we both knew. He asked me to call his family and told me things that only a wife would know. All that time, he was trying to dial out on another line and use his cell phone, both to no avail.
In the end he was at peace. We knew each others names, and he thanked me.
Soon the connection broke and a few minutes later a co worker came rushing in and said one of the towers had collapsed. I immediately went to the roof of our building and saw all of the smoke/dust. Something changed for me that day, as it did for a lot of people that day.
Two days later, my reserve unit was ordered to report for duty. We were bussed into Manhattan, and I was standing in dust and rubble.
Once I returned to work, I was taking calls at Verizon and there were a lot of requests for a missing persons line. I had heard some of the most heart wrenching stories from people looking for lost loved ones. I returned to Manhattan about a month after the incident and saw a lot of the vigils being build in the subway with pictures/candles and flowers of lost people.
In 2003, I relocated to Florida, where I have been a LEO for eight years. I was destined for this job. The military instilled in me core values, which I carry with me to this day. 9/11 was a wake up call for a lot of people. To me, being a former U.S. Navy Seabee, our motto is “With Compassion for Others: We Build! We Fight!” As a LEO I have compassion, and 9/11 has expanded that, which I feel makes me a better officer.
Proud to Wear the Badge
For the next 12 hours, I sat in my bed watching the news in disbelief. When we started hearing the numbers of those lost in the tragedy, and the numbers of Law Enforcement, Fire, and Emergency Services personnel that lost their lives it hit me hard. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about those who unselfishly gave their lives to try to save others. It makes me proud to wear the badge.
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