17 years ago today, September 11, 2001, our nation watched in horror as our country came under attack. Thousands of people ran for their lives.
And then…there were the heroes.
Heroes came in all shapes and sizes that day, but undoubtedly our first responders were the epitome of bravery. They ran INTO the flames, INTO the chaos, UP the stairs. When told to get out to save themselves, many refused to leave the buildings as long as there were still people in them. They saved as many as they could before paying the ultimate price.
As I type this we are under mandatory evacuation orders in the face of Hurricane Florence. They’ve reversed the lanes on the interstate so more people can escape the city with their families.
And then…there are the heroes.
They’re gathering up a few things and leaving their families behind when everything in them wants most to protect them. They’ll sleep on floors, cots, chairs…or not at all over the next few days. They’ll worry about their families. Their families will worry about them. They’ll be the ones running into the storm while everyone runs away. They’ll be the ones protecting the community and those who were unable to get out.
After 9/11 the support for those brave New York and D.C. first responders was tangible. People all over the country wore NYPD/FDNY shirts and bracelets. The media posted heart wrenching pictures of officers saving dazed or wounded people. America praised their efforts and showed immense gratitude for their sacrifices.
When natural disasters hit, the media post those same kinds of emotional photos of first responders saving families, holding the injured, passed out exhausted on floors after working straight through several shifts. The country sings their praises.
And after a few weeks, they’ll forget. Officers will keep doing those same things. They’ll respond to the child who stopped breathing. They’ll comfort a man who just found his better half of 50 years dead. They’ll walk into a building, not knowing if death is around the corner to save the woman who called and said her husband was armed and trying to kill her. They’ll pull a teenager out of a totaled car. They’ll break up a terrorist cell. They’ll put a killer behind bars. They’ll hold a terrified child who just watched daddy kill mommy. They will carry each one of those calls forever burned into their souls. But no one will notice.
The media will go back to being filled with inflammatory posts condemning those brutal police. They’ll criticize an officer who used deadly force when an armed criminal threatened his life. They’ll spread the hate of organizations that call for the deaths of these officers. They’ll praise a man who wears socks with pigs dressed as cops as the real “hero.” They will beat down and demoralize these men and women until they don’t even know if it’s worth it anymore, and too many officers will end their own lives.
And then another disaster will arise. And the heroes will run to it. The media narrative will turn. And suddenly everyone will be grateful for those brave men and women again.
Oh, America…don’t you see? Your heroes never changed. You did.