Soon we will be the ten-year anniversary of 9/11. I vividly recall watching the news—the television replays of planes crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and the subsequent panic, then devastation in New York City. I remember the surreal experience of viewing the collapse of the Towers knowing there were police and firefighters dying in those building while trying to save others.
For several days after the attacks the skies were clear of any airline traffic. Living on the west side of Elk Grove Village near O’Hare, jets were typically commonplace. The respite from jet noise was a good thing (noise pollution-wise) but nonetheless, it seemed odd. As a Master’s student in a program in downtown Chicago, I would regularly drive or take the train downtown. In the days and weeks immediately after 9/11 I remember everyone being more polite to one another than usual. Walking along Michigan Avenue was oddly an unhurried pleasure.
The most outstanding thing about 9/11 was my personal reflection of my occupation as a police officer. The reflection I am referring to involves the attitude of the public about emergency services personnel.
In the week following 9/11, Jay Leno along with other late night comedians temporarily abstained from their opening monologues. Leno didn’t feel right about making jokes about anything until he could process everything that happened. Here is the kicker;. he followed up and remarked on how he questioned the importance of what he does for a living after seeing the New York City police and fire fighters intentionally sacrifice themselves for others. For a millionaire who makes his living telling jokes, it was certainly interesting to hear his sincere personal reflection. It was clear that he personally questioned the overall value of his job.
Sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the “stuff” that goes with police work and you lose sight of the big picture. It’s important to realize that what police officers do is important even the relatively mundane calls or tasks. But in reality, every day police officers make a difference. You are part of a noble profession that few people can do. Take a look at the numbers who apply for a handful of positions and then actually make it. No matter what one’s position in any police organization there is nobility that exists in that career like no other. As we near the tenth anniversary of 9/11 please reflect on this and be proud of who you are and what you do.
About the Author: Ron Harper is a retired lieutenant from the Hoffman Estate Police Department. He is currently Program Coordinator for the Criminal Justice Degree Program at Rasmussen College for the Illinois and Wisconsin colleges. He retired from the police force September 7, 2001.