It’s 8:45 EST, a minute before my life changed 18 years ago.
I want to stop the clock, but I can’t. Just like my life, it will change and I will have to face the memories again.
18 years ago it was just another September 11th, now it is a day that is etched into my brain until I draw my last breath.
My wife reminded me last night that on September 10th we had been watching Monday Night Football. My (formerly beloved) Giant’s lost to the Denver Broncos. We’d stayed up late to watch, even though I had election duty the next day. What should have been a day spent bitching about my team, would soon turn into a nightmare that I am forever trapped in.
I often wonder if people look at us and think, ‘why can’t they just move on?’
The simple answer is that we live with the aftermath of September 11th every day.
That morning, we lost 23 members of the NYPD, but since then we have lost over 240 and the reality for us is that this number will only grow. Most cannot fathom what we were exposed to, as the videos do not do it justice. For those of us who were there, we know what was in the air and what we were exposed to. I have never understood why the government lied, when they said, ‘the air is safe.’ Walking into Ground Zero we all knew that it wasn’t and it didn’t stop us from doing our job.
The other reason is that we do not have any closure.
On the morning of December 7th, 1941, America was attacked at Pearl Harbor. There were over two thousand deaths and over one thousand wounded. It was the worst attack America had ever faced from an enemy. On August 15th, 1945, less than 5 years after the attack, Japan surrendered. While it didn’t bring back those we lost, there was some measure of closure. We’d been attacked and we brought our enemy to their knees.
18 years later and we are still fighting this war and there is no end in sight.
Last night, minutes into the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, our embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan was attacked; a stark reminder that our enemy has not surrendered and is alive and well.
On the morning of September 11th, we lost almost three thousand people, in the 18 years that have passed, we have lost nearly the same amount to the toxins they ingested either fleeing from or responding to the attack. Yet, when I have had occasion to speak on this topic, most have no idea.
They have no idea because there is little coverage of those numbers. It is America’s dirty little secret. They don’t know the staggering amount of people that continue to die, almost every day, nor the fact that, for many families of the original victims, there is no closure because, 18 years later, their loved ones have still not been identified.
Many, like me, feel as if we have been relegated to history and the recent fight to renew the VCF is a poignant reminder.
Rather than do what they promised to do, which was Never Forget, the 9/11 victims had to plead, threaten, and embarrass many in Congress to renew the funding; the very same politicians who get in front of any camera they can, on the anniversary of the attack, to pontificate to the rest of us about, ‘not forgetting.’
Rather than point a finger at our enemy, and call them out for the cowards they are, we look away, afraid to offend anyone. Even today, the NY Times posted an article about how, ‘planes took aim and brought down the World Trade Center.’ Unless we have sentient airliners, I’m pretty sure there were Islamic terrorists who aimed them at their targets.
Rather than stand tall and call it what it was, a terror attack, many in politics and the media have chosen to white wash it. Or, as one Congressperson insensitively put it, “Some people did something.”
18 years ago today, I stood next to my old partner, NYPD Lieutenant Paul Murphy, as we helped rescue and evacuate people from Ground Zero. On January 4th, 2018, Paul died from the 9/11 illnesses he had battled. Paul was a great cop, a loving husband & father, and a dear friend. I remember when I called him to tell him I had been diagnosed with 9/11 cancer. Even though he was fighting his own battle, he immediately counseled me on what I needed to do to get taken care of. I lost him only days later.
Paul, and all of my brothers and sisters who have fought and lost their battles, are my heroes. They exemplify the NYPD Motto: Fidelis Ad Mortem.
Today I remember them and all they sacrificed that fateful day. I just wish we could set our clocks back to September 12th and live our lives with that same level of commitment, respect, and appreciation.
Never Forget - “All Gave Some, Some Gave All.”
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