I remember exactly where I was that fateful morning: Coach had exhausted us on a practice that ran much later than normal the night prior, so many of my teammates and I slept in late the following day. I woke up the next day to find that all of my college classes for that day had been cancelled.
A ball of fire blazed in the Eastern sky that day, but it was not the sun. The earth shook as skyscrapers crumbled back to the ground in a heap of concrete and steel, but there was no earthquake. That day, September 11th, 2001, thousands of Americans awoke to go about their usual daily lives kissing their loved ones goodbye that morning for the last time, not knowing the unspeakable tragedy that would soon claim their lives.
Four commercial airliners were hijacked by terrorists in a plan to destroy the hopes and dreams of all Americans by throwing the United States into a state of madness and chaos. Two of the hijacked planes slammed into the Twin Towers of New York City’s World Trade Center. Looming high over the city, the structures were no match for the powerful explosion and the intense heat, which quickly brought the Twin Towers crashing back to the ground so far below. Smoke and dust roared through the streets engulfing everything in their path killing thousands of people who had nowhere to run. People raced for their lives trying to escape the outstretched arms of Death. Where the Twin Towers once stood laid a pile of rubble under a thick cloud of darkness.
Eleven years later, everything has changed… and nothing has changed. We now have government agencies that specialize in intelligence assessment to safeguard our nation from threats of terror; we have extensive security measures at airports and seaports; we have political and economic reform. But some things remain the same: we still have threats of terror from radical extremists whose only aim is to use violence and intimidation to destroy the freedoms we enjoy at the expense of our innocence.
And when I think of our reactions to combat these threats, I remember the September 11th first responders who voluntarily ran UP the stairs of those burning towers when everyone else was running down; I remember the heroic civilian passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who selflessly gave their lives to overthrow terrorist hijackers thereby saving countless other lives; and, I remember the men and women of the United States Armed Forces who have made great sacrifice to ensure freedom prevails. And in this remembrance, I ask myself, “Could I have run up those stairs when everyone else was running down?; could I have joined fellow passengers, whom I did not know, on a plane and give my life so that others could live?; could I make the sacrifice to serve my country in the most desolate places on earth to ensure my fellow Americans could live at home in peace?”
The answers then divinely come to me, making the somber remembrance of the September 11th tragedy into a sweet honor. I come to realize that I do those things every time I come to work in law enforcement. Every time we put on that uniform and wear that badge we make promises to ourselves, vows to our partners, and sworn oaths to the innocent people we serve that we will not go quietly into the darkness. And although the darkness surrounds us sometimes, we will remain steadfast to each other to uphold the oath we each swore. And your title of service matters not: from the newest Explorer to the most seasoned Officer and everyone in between; I count it all joy to serve with you all.
And so in remembrance of September 11th, my encouragement to you all is to fight the good fight and run the race that is set before you for none of us know when our “finish line” will come. We are all blessed beyond deserving. May we learn to use the gifts we have been granted so we ordinary people can do the most extraordinary things, just like those brave souls did eleven years ago on September 11th, 2001. May God bless America.