Do you remember beepers? Well, I hated ‘em. That little black box with the most annoying, constant, ear-piercing “beeps” that could wake up a bear in hibernation — I’m glad they’ve become all but obsolete. Remembering the ‘beeper days’ I have one, most troubling memory.
My K-9 partner Nico and I had just gotten home from a midnight shift. I was exhausted. I crawled into bed and about 0730 and I’m soon enough, I’m sawin’ logs. About two hours later — deep in R.E.M. sleep — I hear it... that God-forsaken beeper, beeping and vibrating to no end. “Beep! Buzz! Beep! Buzz...”
I fumbled for it on my nightstand. I pressed the button and the blinding green screen penetrates my retinas like I’d just looked straight into the sun. Groggy, I shake myself and I focus. I read the message.
“ALL sworn personnel report to duty immediately”
I lay there for a few seconds, trying to fully wake up.
“ALL?!” I thought to myself. What the hell is going on? I just got home for crying out loud!
I gently reach my hand under my wife’s pillow in search of the TV remote, popped on the television, and that is when I truly awoke.
It was September 11, 2001.
The images would be burned into my mind for the rest of my life. But it wasn’t real. It couldn’t be.
As I watched the World Trade Center towers on fire, I shot straight up in bed. The TV anchors were saying they were on fire and a plane had flown into them, but that’s about all they knew. Apparently, The United States was under attack, but everything else was unclear. I sat there in disbelief as I watch the first tower come crashing down. I couldn’t move.
Then I remembered why I was watching — I was supposed to be going to work.
I showered and dressed loaded up Nico, my AR, and a few extra handguns (which I normally didn’t carry) and jumped into my squad. When I arrived at work a briefing had been scheduled. The United Stated was under terrorist attack, and we as police officers were the front lines — lying in wait — wondering where they would strike next.
We didn’t have much of an operational plan, other than to stay highly visible and patrol the most populated and largest buildings in the city. It was almost as if we had immediately become an extension of national security.
After we realized what had happened, our call to duty became ever so real. We had watched the towers fall, and had learned that it was al Qaeda taking responsibility. The casualties were mounting, and we were learning that women, children, military personnel, and police officers were among the dead. And we as police officers were pissed. We wanted the bad guy, we wanted an enemy to engage and fight, to take to jail, and the cowards blew themselves up and the others were hiding in a cave halfway around the world.
We immediately slapped American Flag stickers on the back windows of our squad cars. One thing was immediately clear on that day. We were ALL Americans, and we were all going to fight together.
Now its ten years later and in a way are still looking for that fight, for that knock out punch to get the sons of bitches that did this to us. We’ve changed the way we fly in this country. We changed our national security, added Homeland Security, fusion centers, and broad based incident command training, beefed up education and law enforcement training in narco-terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Are we safe? That’s debatable, but I would argue we are more prepared.
We as Americans aren’t afraid of a fight. But if you come to our homeland to kill us then don’t run like yellow bellied cowards or blow yourself up. Now its 10 years later, and we still have families that grieve the loss of their loved ones. If anything, the events of September 11, 2001 keep us vigilant, keep us constantly preparing and trying to interdict the next attempt to harm us.
Where were you on that fateful morning? What have you done in your career in the last ten years to help prepare yourself as an officer to respond if it ever happens again? If you were a rookie, you’re now a veteran with ten years on the job. The rookies today were probably still in junior high. Tell them your story of that morning; pass on what happened on your beat, in your city, so at the very least they can learn from it. We can’t erase what happened, but we can let it be a constant reminder, each and every day that we strap on our badge and gun, that we must protect and serve the best we possibly can from terrorism and all other types of criminal activity.
We pin that badge or that American flag on us as a symbol of freedom, a symbol of liberty, and of pride and honor. Our enemies see neither one of them as representing any of those things. We took that oath of office to protect lives, to protect our communities, and to protect our country.
We must NEVER FORGET.
Stay safe brothers and sisters.