Tomorrow is September 11th. Eleven years ago, the worst attacks on American soil happened, striking at our way of life. It was a tragic time, one that all of us will remember where we were and what we were doing.
Tomorrow will be characterized by people reaching out to first responders. So, thank you in advance for that. They will probably say it too. But I thank you. When you take the effort to reach out and say “Thank you”, it makes their job easier. (And don’t you like it when people are grateful for what you do?). It allows them to have a breather from seeing the angry, bad, bloody, or deadly to see a humanity that is concerned with more than themselves.
Tomorrow will also be characterized by these guys telling you that they are not “heroes”. To them, it may be “just a job”. But the stark realization is that if the attack were in Dayton, we’d be remembering the heroes of the Dayton, Riverside, Trotwood, and Huber Heights Fire and Police departments.
Think that can’t happen? As of the 2000 census, Wright Patterson Air Force Base had a resident population of 6,656. The permanent party work force at WPAFB as of September 30, 2005, numbered 5,517 military and 8,102 civilian. One of the top military installations in the US (behind only Andrews AFB), with numerous research projects. So if you think you have no local targets, think again.
If the attack were closer to us, I’d be memorializing people here that lived in cities we are all too familiar with. And my guys would be the ones running into those buildings just the same. And my guys would be attempting to clear out as many people as they could at the cost of their own lives. And my guys would be the ones pushing more people out the doors when they know they may have waited too long to spare their own lives.
People I call my friend today went to Ground Zero (Ohio Task Force One) and help with the search and clean up. I have the privilege of knowing some of them today.
There’s the story of Father Mychal Judge, the Chaplain of the New York Fire Department. He actually entered the towers that morning. Why? Because his guys were in there. And when commanders gave orders to evacuate the building, he refused to abandon the hundreds of firefighters still trapped inside saying, “My work here is not finished.” He was hit by falling debris and was victim 0001. There are chaplains I know across this city who would be in that very position. That could be any of us.
On the Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington DC , we find these words carved “It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it is how they lived.” This applies to all of our first responders. The Latin phrase “Fidelis Ad Mortem” means “Faithful Unto Death”. That’s what they were, Faithful unto death. Today we will recall them as heroes. But I for one, take comfort in knowing some of the greatest firefighters and police officers in this state (and others too). I take comfort in knowing that while some locally have given their lives, the rest stand ready to stand between me and danger. They take the bullet that was intended for someone else. They run into the burning building for YOUR family. They drive down streets and wait in stations and say “Not on my watch. Not today.” And that’s what makes them heroes.