Remembering 9/11 Together
By Michael Boll & Caroline Angel, Ph.D., RN
September 11th always sinks deep into the hearts of our community. And, when we say OUR community, what we mean is not only our brothers and sisters in Blue, but our civilian New Jersey and New York Community. Together, we watched powerlessly in devastation and despair from the sidelines as the Twin Towers came crashing down. As the towers fell, we could taste the soot on our tongues and the fires and smoke burned our eyes. We will never forget that day, and each glance at the forever changed NYC skyline is a reminder. United, as a member of the frontline Blue, and a sister of the civilian community, we briefly share some thoughts on remaining resilient together.
Beginning in the later morning hours of September 11, many of the Blue ran to the towers, desperate to help in anyway they could to support our brothers and sisters and the thousands of civilian members fleeing the destruction. Some of them could not get close, so they helped others locate missing loved ones. Some of our Blue stood vigilant in their own homes, being the rock for their families and communities. Mike recalls going to Ground Zero during 9/11 and seeing for the first time what a war could look like in our country–a weighty reflection from a Marine Corps vet. He says that it was hard to even get past the magnitude of the destruction and focus on assisting with the rescue and recovery efforts. Seeing our uniformed brothers and sisters working tirelessly without any regard to their safety really gave him hope that our country would eventually get through this tragedy.
For me, September 11th 2001 was the first day I was to become a volunteer for the American Red Cross. My job on that day was to be one of hundreds of volunteers answering phone calls from families of the missing. All the calls I took that night came from families of those missing from the 101st to 105th floors of One World Trade, the former home of Cantor Fitzgerald. It was too much for me to bear. I couldn’t go back the next day, nor a single day thereafter.
I would say that with shame, but honestly in talking to Mike, after his service at Ground Zero in those harrowing days following, even now, he hasn’t gone back to the site.
Wherever we were that day, however we helped, our entire community carries the deep grief of our Nation’s Fallen. Our Fallen. It will never go away.
The Officer Down Memorial Page (see: www.odmp.org/search/incident/september-11-terrorist-attack) informs us that the terrorist attacks of September 11th were the single greatest cause of line of duty deaths in American Policing history. Seventy-one officers were killed when the Towers collapsed and dozens more, we are told, have died from illnesses developed as a direct result of exposure to the hazardous conditions. While we can’t name them all here, please visit the Officer Down Memorial page, and honor their memories and their sacrifices.
But, the story doesn’t end there. Not even close. We have since rebuilt on the World Trade site what has become a hallowed ground for memory and reflection. We share our stories of those lost, carry their light and legacy forward, and continue to fight terror in our neighborhoods and abroad. And, we always come together to remember as a unified team.
Our Teams, Operation Rebound and Team Red White & Blue, both serving the military veteran and broader first responder communities, are wholeheartedly connected with the events of 9/11, and we take care to honor that day especially. For Mike, his drive to connect with families of the Fallen started in part post-9/11. For a couple of years after that day, he organized recreational and holiday activities for the families and children of 9/11 fallen Union County police. Last year, Operation Rebound held a memorial service in Warinanco Park, Elizabeth, NJ, and then began a 200 mile bicycle ride to Walter Reed Memorial Center in Washington DC, which they completed in under 24 hours. When they arrived at Walter Reed, they met with wounded military veterans and raised over 10,000 dollars to be donated directly to injured veterans on the Team. Previously, Team RWB has held remembrance events via functional fitness workouts at the Union County 9/11 Memorial in Echo Lake Park, Mountainside, NJ. Last year continuing again to this year, Team RWB will hold a remembrance run starting at the Empty Sky Memorial in Liberty State Park to run 11 miles and complete it with a moment of silence at 8:46am. Details of those events can be found by first joining our teams via the websites listed below.
As we continue to say, first with our thoughts from Memorial Day, and now with upcoming 9/11: these reminders bring challenges to many, especially those still bearing witness every day to their grief. Please take time to connect with each other, and remain resilient and united. We hope you will reach out to us directly or join us at our team events. Our goal is to provide a shelter for your stories to be shared among trusted others. Our Blue and Green brothers and sisters of the frontline with our caring civilian community, let us remember together.