Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Honor & Bravery - Where I Was Six Years Ago

Six years ago I was off duty barely awake after a very long night of police work when I got the call from Alexandria PD to turn on my television to see the horror unfolding. As soon as I saw the smoke from the towers and the news about the Pentagon, it wasn't even a minute gone by when my SWAT pager started beeping at me, "ALL SOT (Special Operations Team) MEMBERS REPORT TO HQ FOR EMERGENCY RESPONSE BRIEFING." My heart jumped and I immediately suited up in my all-black BDUs, jumped in my police cruiser, and went Code 3 through traffic in Fairfax County towards the City of Alexandria. When I arrived I was detailed to my designated spot, another potential terrorist target, The Woodrow Wilson Bridge. While it may not have been an intended target, any large transportation structure could be a disaster waiting to happen if destroyed (think of the bridge in Minneapolis!). So there I was, me & my partner screening every car that passes under the WW Bridge. There's a road that travels under it near Jones Point Park. I still couldn't get over what happened, I didn't have time to process the NYC and Pentagon events, I just did what I was trained to do - react. At first, some of the people I stopped didn't understand what I was doing and felt violated and inconvenienced, but being dressed the way I was with a badge and MP5 sub-machine gun slung around my body, I hardly encountered any resistance. Soon though, news was spreading and people became much more understanding. I couldn't help but wonder how my fellow brothers & sisters were doing at the Pentagon and in lower Manhattan, I just could not imagine at the time. But I knew the intense impact this was having on us, on our families, the sudden shock and disbelief that many felt, "This can't be happening!" Well it did, and I don't feel we should let fear drive us on 9/11. If we do, then the terrorists accomplished their mission - to instill terror in us all! NO, we must not be afraid on 9/11, we must remember our fallen and brave police officers, firefighters, and the soldiers who've died thereafter overseas. We must remain strong and vigilant, not paranoid and terrified. If we are panic stricken all the time, then the terrorists are winning the psychological part of the war. Let's not let that happen.

Eventually I drove to the Pentagon to assist Arlington PD with traffic control. The scene was hard to describe, the smell of the smoke was strong, and the day finally hit me. That's all I can say really. To this day, I remember how helpless I did feel at the time when people were dying in the South & North towers and at the Pentagon. As a cop, you wanna try and help save everybody, but that's just not always possible. As a cop you're trained to take control of the situation. 9/11 was beyond control. The memories still haunt me to this day. Yet I still believe in the bravery, the honor, and the actions of those on United 93, the first responders at the Pentagon & lower Manhattan, and the soldiers that fight to this day. Where were you on 9/11?

(below is my 9/11 Commemorative Badge)

(this is my patch, duty badge, pistol expert pin, and SOT pins)