“Where were you when the World stopped turning…”

I’ve noticed a lot of posts on Facebook and other places about representatives of Law Enforcement, Fire and EMS personnel not being at the 9/11 10th Anniversary memorial event tomorrow due to lack of space. While right now I haven’t seen where this is the case or another lame internet “urban legend” I have already decided that this event can go on without my participation via television.

I am not watching that ceremony already because no clergy of ANY group was invited. How quickly those in office forget the prayer services, joint services that gathered Christians, Jews, Muslims and other groups together to mourn our dead and implore God to intercede on our Nation’s behalf. How soon humanists and others have gone after the symbols of that day (the Iron Cross left standing) and then focus on us turning our backs from fighting the regimes that sponsor terrorism. How soon the memories of civilians, Law Enforcement Officers, Firemen, EMS Personnel, chaplains and others were cheapened by trinket selling shills and their memories evoked by charlatans seeking “donations”. Have we become so “politically correct” in this nation that no one can bring faith into ANY public arena without worrying about “offending” anyone? Is this what we’ve learned in 10 years since the cowardly, devious attack on our nation that we are still feeling to this day every time we look at the news? The economy, world politics, gas prices, US Military action, the schism-like division of the American political spectrum, all of this may not have been originated with the events of 9/11 but those that were not were certainly worsened and magnified by it.

In my mind, nothing that can be done from this point on will be as moving and as touching as the removal of the “last man standing”… the final piece of the towers that was lowered, covered with a black shroud, wreaths placed on it and escorted by an honor guard from the pit in the memory of the many, many people whose remains were never recovered.

The memory of tomorrow should be hallowed in the hearts and minds of the “common people” of this nation and the brothers and sisters to the first responders and military personnel that paid “the full measure” that day and since that day. With the exception of the Mayor of the City of New York (who is the representative of that metropolis), the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staff (for the Pentagon) and the President of the United States (who should be present in the field in Pennsylvania to mark the remains of the most gallant victims that may well have saved the White House or the Capital) all other politicians, public officials and “celebrities” should, for once, move aside and render silent respect with all of us. What words of comfort can politicians give us who still can’t look at a clear, crisp, blue September sky without a shadow over our heart and lump in our throat as we wondered if there would be any more attacks. If so, where? Would they be close to the area I’ve sworn to protect? Will I and those I work with need to deploy to other areas? Will other civilian targets be hit? Do we have supplies, ammunition, etc.?

What comfort and faith can a politician evoke for one that will never forget laying his (now grown) children to bed and having them ask “Daddy, will they crash an airplane on us?” and realizing that a feeling of safety that had long been taken for granted would never quite be the same. That the world my children would and have grown up in would be a more difficult and harder one than I had realized since the end of the Cold War.

Every year at this time I listen to the most moving song written during that horrible time. Alan Jackson sang “Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?” As I remember the world really did “stop turning” and became eerily silent and sad. I was on my way to work at the Police Department on I-85 when the first reports of a plane hitting the World Trade Center started coming in. When I got to the break room of the old PD I was watching the first live shots from the “Today Show” and then went to the Patrol Captain’s office where the Chief, Captains and I watched the events unfold. I will never forget the horror of watching live as the second plane hit the second tower. It was then that all of us in the room knew in a blood chilling second that this was NOT a tragic accident and we were under attack. Then the reports of the plane down in Pennsylvania…and watching live as people jumped out of the top floors of one of the world’s tallest buildings rather than burn to death in an inferno so hot that it would vaporize some of the metal in the building frame. As we talked about putting people on alert and what the regional response by law enforcement might be we watched in horror as the first tower fell. Having been to NYC and been up on the observation deck of that tower, looking across the harbor at Liberty Island years before I could not imagine something that big collapsing. I knew there had to be people still left in the building. I knew that the passengers on the plane, all innocent souls, were incinerated on impact. I knew that it would have taken out all the NY Port Authority Police, NY Fire Department and Rescue Personnel in the building that would be doing what I would have done were that in my home…trying to save people. That was just setting into me when the unthinkable happened…the second tower fell and with it the lives of so many people. The symbol of the prosperity and financial leadership of the United States had been leveled by a group of demonic individuals sacrificing our own people. We had literally been shot with a bullet from our own gun.

Then the other stories poured in. One plane was down in a field in Pennsylvania. Speculation was that this plane had been headed to Washington DC to either the White House or the Capitol. I had no idea the stories of heroism, bravery and faith that would come from that event alone. I will never forget the passenger asking the skyphone operator to join him in the Lords Prayer or the now famous words…”Let’s Roll”. The decision of these people to risk and then sacrifice their lives in order to prevent this plane from hitting its target. Such courage. Such FAITH.

When I’m working my part-time job I end up getting a lot of assignments in the NorthEast and Midwest. I almost always fly back into Reagan National to get my commuter flight to RDU. Each time we make that approach to Reagan I look out the window at the side of the Pentagon where a plane on a similar flight path came in and turned that outer ring of that giant building into an inferno. This time the symbol of our Military had been struck with the sacrifice of our own people.

In the last ten years this event has been examined by news reporters, scientist, politicians and so forth. The “conspiracy theorist” abound and each time one of them is given a public ear it seems more and more idiotic. More insipid are those that had the gall to say “we deserved it” after the BILLIONS of dollars in US aid, support, charity, manpower and assistance have been rendered to the other nations of this world since World War II. Cultural reasons be hanged there was NO justification for that day and there never, ever will be. There is a small comfort that the “mastermind” of all this is now at the bottom of the sea but the damage to the culture of our nation is still there, still raw to the touch.

If human progress, human government, secular “community” are all that we have to remember these events by or to lead us as a nation in the future then we are destined to follow in the steps of so many cultures and empires before. In order for this nation to be “united” there must be something greater than ourselves. There must be something greater than this selfish, defiant human nature that we see so much today. It must be that spark of the divine, the “image of God” that exists within each of us and yearns to see the reflection of its Creator that is acknowledged and allowed to worship, to have faith in the eternal and spiritual, that unifies us both politically and morally. The founding fathers of this nation were quick to point out that their Enlightenment views of government were rooted in the conviction of the leadership of “divine Providence”, “their Creator” and for many (despite what you may have heard) “the lordship of Jesus Christ”. It does not honor those that have died to allow our society to forget that.

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