Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Giving and Taking

I thought I would have to think long and hard to come up with JT's request for a crime story but it was easier than I thought. Sorry JT but this post won't be funny.

I remember being called by my best friend Terri on the early morning of September 11, 2001. She woke me from only a few hours sleep to tell me to turn on my television. I saw the World Trade Center towers burning. She watching from Michigan and was as stunned as I would be, as we all would be. She and I didn't talk long but I appreciated her call; I still do.

I watched the television until they called me to come into work early. I knew they would. We ended up stuck in a room for days on end with the TV broadcasting a steady stream of horror. At first everyone jockeyed for the closest position to the TV. The news was horrifying but fascinating.

By day two I started staying as far away from the TV as possible. I think the tipping point was when the Ken and Barbie anchors talked about rescuers writing their social security numbers on their limbs. That was too much. It was too real. I did not want to watch loved ones putting up "missing" posters on the fences outside the site forever after known as Ground Zero.

Sometimes I watched anyway.

I flipped between feeling numb and feeling sad and feeling angry. Luckily I had a job to do and I talked to a lot of frightened people, both citizens and coworkers.

Eight or ten days later a member of our department came back from an aid trip to New York City. He had been lending support and now he was returning with news and with items given to him to present to our department from the NYPD and the NY Transit Police.
Among the items he presented to the department were two melted twisted hunks of metal: pieces of the fallen towers.

I knew why he brought them back. I know why we still display them. They are physical, tangible, undeniable proof that terror comes in many forms and people like us, folks who just do our jobs, sometimes pay the ultimate price for our liberty.

I'm proud to live in America. I'm proud of the men and women of the NYC PD and NYC FD, both the fallen and the survivors. I have listened to the first 150 minutes of unedited fire dispatch tapes with chilled grief. I cannot know what it was like to be in the towers but I can imagine how it would feel to be on the other end of that radio, to block out all personal feelings because there was a job to be done. I have felt real fear for my friends and colleagues when the sierra hits the foxtrot and the best I can do, the only thing I can do, is to send them as much help as I can.

I did not want to touch the pieces of metal. I did not want them near me. I know that they would have likely been dragged off to a garbage heap and that their current place is one of reverence.

I know this.

But the first thought that leapt to my brain when I saw them still holds sway; it still seems like grave robbery.


Still Searching... said...

Wow. Powerful post hon.

Sandy said...

I did touch that piece of metal and felt proud to be American. Proud to do what we do-especially when the times are toughest. I felt in that twisted metal the pride, sense of duty and honor of those rescuers rushing in that falling building as others were running away from it. In that twisted wreckage I felt American spirit.

KTDixon said...

I had a piece with me in Iraq, and wish I still had it today. Everyone knew I had it. Everyone wanted to carry it on patrol or during a raid or an ambush. They said it made them feel strong. Honestly, it did make you strong, it made you superman.

I eventually handed it off to a buddy after he was hit in the stomach and was being flown to Germany. I think it was buried with him.

On second thought, I don't want it back. He earned it, he can keep it.

Good posting. I will be adding you to my blogroll.

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