My husband agreed and reached for the phone. In the ensuing 15 minute phone call, I listened as he tried to comfort his mother and also took control of the situation, arranging for us to drop off our son when the department called. We’d each probably be working long hours and possibly sleeping at the station and dispatch center. At this point, we still did not really know what was going on. All we knew was that America was under attack and we both had a job to do to keep the public safe. After arranging for indefinite care of our son, the next call he made was to a couple who were close friends of ours. He worked with my husband in patrol and she was a dispatcher with me. Both guys and I were former military, and the conversation revolved around how we were going to protect ourselves and our homes. They agreed our house was the best stronghold and our friends were going to bring over supplies and the weapons they owned. Paired with our supplies and weapons, we could protect ourselves for quite some time. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.
Over the next few days, things began to clear up a bit. We were fed some answers to the tragedy. We watched the horror over and over and over again. We learned about the devastating loss of first responders. I cried a lot and I was angry. Still to this day, my mind flashes back to the pictures of the emergency vehicles and the radio transmissions of lost men and women. It was haunting. It was tragic. It was senseless.
On September 15th, I wrote these words (in the form of a prayer) in my journal:
Lord, I turn to you with a sorrowful heart. I grieve for the families of those lost during the tragedy on Tuesday. I pray for peace although my head screams war. I pray for forgiveness although my head screams revenge. I am confused, lost, and lonely. I turn to you for healing, for wisdom and for answers. I pray that in sorrow, we will find gladness. In hardship, we will find rest. In solitude, we will find friendship. In hate, we will find love. At this time, the country and the world stands by as we await the next step. I pray that you will guide our leaders and keep them from acting in anger. I pray you will soften the hearts of those behind this tragedy and make them let go of their hatred and rage. Let us find peace, in our country and in our hearts.
A year later, a variety of agencies including Phoenix Police and Fire Departments got together to host a memorial. We organized a walk up the stairwell of the tallest building in Phoenix in memory of those who died. I got involved when I asked, “Wouldn’t it be cool if every participant wore an armband with the name of a fallen first responder? That way we would truly be walking in memory of a person.” On September 11, 2002, fire fighters, police officers and hundreds of supporters arrived at the Bank One building in downtown Phoenix many in full turn-out gear. Volunteers helped them put an armband on.
As I walked up those stairs surrounded by my colleagues wearing one of the 1500 armbands I made, I felt a spark of hope. It was in solidarity that America and its first responders were finding healing. It was through memorial events and remembering why we work in the occupations we do that promoted our growth. Even after all the tragedy, men and women were still willing to run into a building when others ran the other way. Despite the efforts of evil people, America still had its heroes. Through these heroes, we still have hope.