The lesson of 9/11: Thank our first responders

On September 11, 2001 A small curch next to the fallen Twin Towers, St. Paul's, became a makeshift triage center for the wounded and a place for firefighters to take a quick rest before returning to the inferno. Today, some of the pews remain in the same state where the firefighter's equipment scarred them and one uniform reserves this pew forever as a memorial to the heros of 9/11. Copyright © 2011 Vic Bonilla All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce this image without expressed permission from the photographer.

On September 11, 2001 A small curch next to the fallen Twin Towers, St. Paul’s, became a makeshift triage center for the wounded and a place for firefighters to take a quick rest before returning to the inferno. Today, some of the pews remain in the same state where the firefighter’s equipment scarred them and one uniform reserves this pew forever as a memorial to the heros of 9/11.

Mark Parent
Opinions Editor

Fourteen years ago, I was sitting in a second-grade classroom wondering why my mom had called me to the office to be picked up early from school.

As it turned out, al-Qaeda had attacked the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and even downed a plane in Pennsylvania.

Of course, every single one of us knows the rest of the story. America rose from the ashes, invaded Afghanistan, established the Department of Homeland Security, enacted the Patriot Act, created tougher travel restrictions and, perhaps most importantly, permanently changed the hearts and minds of the American people.

From this point forward, the world was different. Americans were targets; our way of life was threatened; everything we stood for was under siege from a group of individuals hell-bent on sending the world back to the seventh century.

Yet, the lesson I’ve learned from studying this pivotal point in human history has nothing to do with the wars, civil liberties violations or massive loss of life that resulted from the 9/11 attacks.

Instead, it has everything to do with the bravery, selflessness and heroism of the first responders who, in too many cases, gave their lives in an effort to save their fellow countryman.

As the son of a firefighter, I feel a special connection to the sacrifices offered on that dark day. In fact, I vividly remember the heartbreak that my own household felt for the fallen first responders and their families.

And, for those of you who have been able to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, you have undoubtedly felt and seen firsthand the sheer terror that far too many hard-working people endured.

Sadly, I believe our generation has forgotten these sacrifices and takes our precious freedom for granted.

We can hardly go a day without learning of some new protest about the evils of police officers and their unfair brutality towards minorities in inner-city areas.

In recent months, these protests have turned to vicious anti-cop rhetoric that I had only previously heard in documentaries detailing the tactics of the Black Panthers and Weather Underground in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Now, let me be clear: cops are not pigs; they are not evil; they are not all racist; they aren’t out to get anyone.

In fact, most cops are severely underpaid, overworked, unfairly vilified by know-nothings and constantly in danger of their lives.

So, why in the world are they the target of certain aggrieved groups that like to protest in the street?

The simple answer is cops are easy targets.  When people are arrested, they lash out at cops, despite their own role in getting arrested. When an incident of police brutality occurs, people decide to associate one cop’s actions with all cops. When Al Sharpton shows up for a rally, we’re almost always told it’s because the cops screwed up.

This is not to say that the police have not acted wrongly in certain situations; that claim would be irresponsible and intellectually dishonest. However, it is simply ignorant to blame the cops for bad situations in inner-city neighborhoods. The hard truth is that it’s a failure of liberal policies concerning education, family structure, organized crime, government assistance, community outreach and economic opportunity.

Personally, I want to have a real conversation about race, policing tactics, education reform, family values, economic empowerment and the eradication of the war on drugs. But I know this conversation cannot occur when groups, such as Black Lives Matter, are stoking racial flames and causing horrible divisions in society.

Trust me, I know that this is a difficult issue that pits people against each other almost immediately. My only point is that when Black Lives Matter vilifies police officers, who are almost always white, in the high-profile cases they like to cite, it pushes people into their respective political and racial corners and prevents real progress from ever occurring.

So, when a group of Black Lives Matter protesters, who happened to be both black and white, were shouting, “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon” at a Minneapolis rally last week, there is bound to be significant blowback.

For those of you who don’t know, “pigs” is code for police officers and it’s not meant to be a flattering nickname. In all honesty, these people are despicable and people who agree with that form of vicious and violent rhetoric should seriously reexamine their core values.

All around this country, cops are being portrayed as boogey-men concerned only with racial profiling and ridding the streets of young minority men. And, in the interest of being completely objective, it must be said that profiling does occur in some cities.

Yet, those policies come from the top, which places the blame on mayors, city managers, police chiefs and police commissioners — in no way is it the fault of the police officers carrying out their duties.

I may have only been 7 years old during 9/11, but even I remember how our country rallied around our first responders and made sure that they knew how valued they were to each and every American community. And I can only infer that others on this campus, regardless of race or background, remember that time of praise and gratitude.

But we shouldn’t have to wait for a tragedy to acknowledge the daily sacrifices and heroism displayed by our first-responders across this country. Instead, we should be respectful of law enforcement and support them through this tough period of time and division.

After all, the only way that our society can enact real justice is through thoughtful and loving dialogue that is able to cut through vicious rhetoric.

This means that all of the hustlers and dividers on both sides of the issue should stand down and allow cooler heads to prevail.

Obviously, we’ll never forget the horror of 9/11, but we sure as hell can’t afford to forget the lesson of 9/12, which is that patriotism and justice has no color and we’re all in this together.

So, today, let’s start over, thank our first responders and never forget the power of unity.

Categories: Columns, mark's minute, Opinions

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