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Home  >  Topics  >  Police Heroes

October 18, 2013
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Barbara A. Schwartz Living with the Sacrifice
with Barbara A. Schwartz

Brother of slain MIT officer seeks a National First Responders Day

To honor police, firefighters, and EMTs who make the ultimate sacrifice, Sean Collier’s brother proposes a national day of remembrance — all he needs now is your help

The Living with the Sacrifice column has grown from its inception of supporting injured and disabled officers to covering all the sacrifices inherit in law enforcement. 

Families of fallen officers live with the sacrifice every day. The family of Sean Collier — the MIT officer who was gunned down by the Boston Marathon bombers — will live with their sacrifice forever. Long after most Americans have forgotten Sean’s name.

Sean’s brother is trying to be sure the sacrifice of first responders — whether they be police officers, firefighters, or paramedics — will never be forgotten. I’m hopeful that after reading this article, you will go online to sign the petition for establishing a First Responders Day. In doing so, you will help the Collier family live with their sacrifice.

A Brother Is Lost
When Andrew Collier lost his brother in April, every law enforcement officer in this country also lost a brother. 

Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology officer, was ambushed and murdered by the Boston Marathon bombers. 

Devastated, Andrew vowed to find a fitting way to honor his brother. Andrew knew that Sean wouldn’t want to be singled out. 

The first holiday the Collier family endured without Sean was Memorial Day — a day set aside to honor the military troops who lost their lives serving our country.

Andrew wondered why there wasn’t a national holiday to recognize those who serve here, at home, on American soil — the nation’s first responders. 

Police and Firefighters Memorial Weeks exist by annual presidential proclamation. Andrew admits that before this year he didn’t even know about the weeks set aside to honor the memories of those who perished in the line of duty. He figured not many other citizens were aware of the meaning of those weeks either.

Andrew set out to change that by establishing a First Responders Day.

“I thought about 9/11. How so many police officers and firefighters lost their lives that day,” Andrew said. “So many tragedies around the country where police officers are putting their lives on the line.”

Police officers ran to the sound of gunfire at a theater in Aurora, a school in Newtown, and a Navy yard in Washington. They ran after bombers through the streets of Watertown, Massachusetts. 

Firefighters have risked and given their lives in wildfires in California, Arizona, and Colorado and have died in recent blazes in West and Houston, Texas.

Through his research, Andrew learned he had a monumental task ahead of him. 

Supporters of Martin Luther King Day lobbied for decades. The MLK holiday came into being through petitions presented to Congress on more than one occasion. The first time, with only 300,000 signatures, the legislation did not pass. The second time, with 6 million signatures, the legislation passed both houses, but only after singer Stevie Wonder penned and recorded a song in support of the effort. President Reagan signed the bill into law, and the January holiday was first celebrated nationally in 1986. 

It took until 2000 — fourteen years later — for all 50 states to ratify and observe the holiday.

Your Help Is Needed
With the help of his sister, Jennifer, Andrew initiated a website and online petition, and as of September 2013, Andrew has collected 24,000 signatures.

He needs at least a million to make the holiday — his dream and his brother’s legacy — a reality.

Massachusetts Congressional Representative Michael Capuano has agreed to sponsor the legislation, but requires the petition signatures to move forward.

Andrew wrestles with coming up with a calendar date for the holiday. He knows his older brother Sean would not have wanted to be singled out or have the holiday on the anniversary of his death. September 11 is considered Patriot’s Day, and many civilians also lost their lives on that day. 

Having the holiday during Police Week or Firefighters Week is an option, but which one?

The biggest obstacle is convincing Congress — and cash-strapped city and state governments — to authorize another paid employee holiday. 

That’s where Andrew needs your help.

He needs you to go to www.change.org/firstresponders and sign the online petition. He needs you to write your Congressional representative and senators, as well as your governor, and tell them that you support the establishment of a First Responders Day.

Andrew needs you to help spread the word through your friends, families, unions, associations, community and religious organizations, citizens’ academies, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Andrew continues to work to publicize the petition and legislation. A machinist for Hendrick Motorsports, Andrew has been interviewed by ESPN and wrote a guest editorial for NASCAR Illustrated magazine.

NASCAR Productions is currently filming a story about Andrew and Sean. The new Fox Sports 1 plans to air the story, but a date has yet to be scheduled.

Andrew hopes to recruit the Hendrick team drivers into lending their celebrity to the cause.

Andrew admits that Sean would not want the day to be about him alone. “Sean held police officers at the highest level. He’d really like this. Honoring all first responders.”

Andrew knows that establishing First Responders Day will be difficult.

Not as difficult as losing his brother in the line of duty. He wants to honor all of you who risk your life so that America can be safe here at home.

Help get the word out. Go online, sign the petition, and pass the word. 


About the author

Barbara A. Schwartz retired after 30 years with NASA in Houston where she worked in Mission Control and Astronaut Training. She is a former reserve officer serving in patrol and investigations. She has been writing about law enforcement officers since 1972 and has been a contributing feature writer for American Police Beat for the past 10 years. Her articles and book reviews have also appeared in Command, The Tactical Edge, Crisis Negotiator Journal, The Badge & Gun, The Harris County Star, The Blues, and The Police News.

Schwartz earned a degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University with electives in Criminal Justice and Criminology. She helped fund her education by working for the campus police department.

Contact Barbara A. Schwartz





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