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Home  >  Topics  >  Police Heroes

September 11, 2008
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Betsy Brantner Smith Survival Insights
with Betsy Brantner Smith

"I needed to be able to do something"

Reflections on 9/11

On September 10th, 2001, Dave and I wrapped up teaching at a tactical conference in Calgary, Canada and flew back to the United States that evening; Dave to Dallas, TX where he was the general manger of Calibre Press and working for the Law Enforcement Television Network, and me to Chicago, IL where I was the sergeant in charge of my agency’s Community Education/Crime Prevention Unit. We were married but still living in two different states. I was about to announce my retirement from the police department and move to Dallas to take an academy position and continue my own work at LETN and Calibre Press. The world was a wonderful place for two well-employed newlyweds who had successfully blended two families into one and were about to embark on new personal and professional challenges.

While getting ready for work on the morning of 09/11/01 with the TV news on as usual, I called Dave as soon as the first plane hit the World Trade Center; by 9:30 AM he was live on the air at LETN and I was rushing to work, a million things running through my mind. I sat with the rest of the Investigations Division in front of a television, watching as the towers fell, the Pentagon was hit, and Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania. Like most police departments, after the initial shock we all had to react and prepare. As information about origin of the attacks came out, I had a major concern for the Islamic center in our city, and by 4:00 PM we had volunteer women from various Christian churches offering to pair up with Muslim women who were afraid to go out shopping or take their kids to school for fear of retaliation. I fielded endless phone calls from parents and school personnel about additional programming and security concerns and began planning new programs to help the community feel safer. I also checked all of my gear, loaded up extra magazines, and made arrangements for my young daughter in case I couldn’t come home that night.

I did go home that night, and I held my 7 year old daughter next to me while we watched the endless news reports and the replay of the attacks. I explained to her that this would be an important day in our history and that she needed to try to remember the images she was seeing on the TV. She wanted to know if more attacks would happen where we live. I told her I didn’t know but that we’d leave that up to God and the military for right now. After I put her to bed, like many of you I just sat down and cried and cried and couldn’t seem to stop. Within a week, I had told my husband that I couldn’t possibly retire now; I needed to be a cop more than ever, I needed to be able to do something.

Dave also did “something.” He began to study radical Islam more than ever before. As lead instructor, he added a “Terrorism” section to the “Street Survival” seminar. And he moved to Chicago, sacrificing his love of warm weather, concealed carry laws and a two-minute commute to work so that I could continue to be a crime fighter and we could be a family all under one roof. Being a family seemed more important than ever before. It still is.

Many say that as a country we’ve forgotten the emotions, the lessons, and the true impact of the attacks of September 11th, and they would be right. But American law enforcement has not, and never will, forget that terrible day. As Dave says, we have added “terrorist” to the long list of dirtbags that we hunt everyday, and we continue to stand ready to make the traffic stops, work the cases, and gather the intelligence that continues to help keep this nation safe from further attack. Happy hunting, our brothers and sisters; and never forget.


About the author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy's website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter





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