By the time this column posts, the ten year anniversary of September 11th will have passed. The nation, as well as, its law enforcement community will have spent time reflecting on what we were doing a decade ago on the day the American landscape and the American consciousness changed. Many conversations will have begun with, “I remember I was…” For my story, I remember I was just coming into the house from running when my officer husband called me upstairs to the television set. I watched in horror, sweat still running down my brow, as the second plane hit the second tower. My husband and I arranged care for our kindergarten son because we thought we would be recalled and begin a grueling schedule to handle the chaos. We called friends and arranged to have supplies and weapons brought to the house for protection. We were a nation at war and as an officer and a dispatcher, we were ready for duty; we were prepared to serve and protect our nation as first responders. In the last decade, this ideology of law enforcement being homeland security was one of the biggest changes I saw in my career. On the home front, this tragedy made me relook at myself and my relationship.
The First Defenders
Many of my friends and loved ones, including my husband are former military. Once we heard the tragedy was caused by a foreign enemy, many tried to re-enlist. So many of us wanted to do something—anything. I know I personally felt helpless that day and for many days afterwards as my life just continued marching on relatively unchanged by the events of that day. The images played over and over on my television and in my mind, but I went about my daily business, going to work (although we were on heightened alert), dropping off and picking up my son at school, exercising and going to the grocery store. Little had changed. The only thing very different was the sense of foreboding, anxiety and sorrow that sat on my chest. This had not existed on September 10th. Law enforcement officers often have personalities that are take charge and get the job done. I feel many, as was reflected in my own husband’s feelings and behaviors, felt inadequate just continuing to do what they had always done while on duty. He would go into work, spend his time patrolling and running from call to call and feeling he was not doing anything. When the nation went to war on September 14th, my husband and many other former military members in law enforcement saw this as an opportunity to go and fight. In enlisting, they could go over sees and seek revenge on the enemy that had taken the lives of so many brothers and sisters in blue and in red. They needed action to help heal the hurt. Most were dumbfounded when told no. They were not going to be able to reenlist. They were law enforcement officers and because of that they were needed at home keeping the streets of their community safe. After all, the terrorists had struck on American soil this time. First responders across the nation were no longer looked at as just keepers of community law and order. They were now domestic peacekeepers. They were the original homeland security. In the last decade, with the emergence of Homeland Security, law enforcement agencies have adjusted their awareness and their training evolving the image and the ideology of our police officers. We are now domestic warriors.
Rededicating Myself to my Marriage
As the role of law enforcement was changing, I was also attempting to reevaluate my marriage. In the past few years we had grown increasingly distant from each other. I had been dispatching for just over three years and the newly added stress in my life was apparent in our relationship. We found very little time for each other and when we did we usually just talked about the events of work or the details of domestic life. We had stopped adoring each other and were just living in the same household. It felt like we were just ships passing in the night. We didn’t take the time to love each other and it was showing as cracks began to form in our marriage.