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How To Love Your Cop
How To Love Your Cop

Heroism: A Learned Response

9:11 helpEvery September I do the same thing – I watch shows that tell the stories of 9/11. I’m well versed in Flight 93 – I’ve watched just about everything I can get my hands on, read books, and know many of the names of those who became heroes that day. I’ve heard the stories of Pentagon rescues and the last moments of those who were in the Twin Towers. I envision the terror in the hallways as hundreds of people are descending the stairways, and imagine looking into the eyes of the firemen who were going the opposite direction. I’ve seen and heard the grief in the survivors’ eyes via television, and feel their pain many miles away. Every year I learn something more, and every year I am amazed at the character that was revealed in America’s day of doom.

I’ve many thoughts, but one stands out this morning.

Crises unveil true character.

Of all the stories of those who put themselves aside and acted unselfishly, there is something in common. Those who knew the heroes weren’t surprised by their final moments. They talked of how their loved ones lived beforehand – giving of themselves in the small moments, in the day to day.

Thinking of others was their mindset. Loving was their lifestyle. And fighting a primal urge to save themselves amidst chaos and mayhem, they let a greater motivation determine their actions, and loved to the end. And we, the world, watched. We were amazed. And grateful.

Our nation’s police officers, firemen, rescue workers, and military are trained to run to the chaos. They feel fear just as I do, but their inner character dares death and steps in and up to the task at hand – to protect and serve in the ways in which they are trained.

I think back to my husband’s training. At first, the Academy personnel knocked the wind out of them. They stripped the men and women of the faulty foundations they had come in with.

Pride. False sense of ability. Selfishness.

They put them in impossible situations, and demanded they perform anyway. But there was a purpose: to make them teachable.

Then, the instructors began to rebuild them. To give them tools and training to survive, take charge of chaos, and to respond appropriately in confidence. They did this over and over and over again.

By the end of his training, my husband was rebuilt. He was a trained observer. He knew what to do in crisis. He was confident.

As we look back at 9/11, we remember that ordinary people did extraordinary things. And we say a silent prayer of thankfulness for them.

But crises happen throughout life. What will drive our reactions?

The way we practice our lives now determines how we will respond to crisis.

Heroes are made in the quietness of soul resolve, in the mundane episodes of repetition, and in the decisions made day to day. Then, when chaos calls, the choice is made to respond, simply yet readily.

September 11th, 2013

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Remembering September 11, 2001

I wrote the following narrative a couple of days after September 11th, 2001 to a group of mothers of preschoolers. Thought I’d share it with you (adding a little commentary here and there as well as changing the kids’ names):

“The phone rang about 7:30 am, waking my husband and I out of a sound, jet-lagged sleep. As a law enforcement family, we were used to getting calls at all hours, so naturally, Chief (then “Sarge”) answered the phone.

“You’re kidding.” Silence. “No-we got in late last night.” Silence. “It’s okay – we’re home, no need to worry. I can’t believe this.” After Sarge hung up the phone, he said to me, “That was Mom. Follow me – America has just changed forever.” We stumbled to the television in the den. We watched in dismay as they replayed scenes of airplanes slamming into the World Trade Center Towers. The LIVE picture showed only one tower standing, then it, too, gave way to dust. We were stunned.

Two days earlier we were on Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, Florida. We had originally booked our tickets to return Tuesday morning, September 11, but through some strange circumstances we reluctantly cut our stay short. Brent’s mother feared we were stuck on the East Coast – or worse – aboard one of the hijacked planes previously headed for California.

Words cannot explain the pain that has invaded the heart of our country. Loss of life; financial implications; security concerns; (and I add war here) – our way of life has been altered. It is of some consolation to see that America has returned to united patriotism and to the One who gave us our freedom. Somehow our suffering has been able to strip down the walls that divide us – we’re praying together, looking for comfort and re-evaluating what is truly important.

Several years ago, amidst the anguish of losing a close friend to cancer, a wise lady told me, “Ask God what He wants you to learn through this.” Somehow her question brought about the realization that there could be some purpose to the pain. I never forgot it – and my compassion deepened through the mourning and recovery processes.

So I ask myself – and you – how can we find purpose in the midst of this tragedy? Is it not an appropriate time to take inventory of our priorities?

As a parent I have been thinking of my main priority – my kids. As I watched events unfold, I was periodically called away to care for the needs of my children. Looking back, I see it as a blessing that a mother’s job is 24/7; for the interspersed smiles of innocence on my little ones’ faces brought relief in the midst of sadness.

Bubba* (then 10) and Ralphie** (8 at the time) watched with curiosity and lots of questions, until more important things called away their attention, such as wrestling in the front room, or reading American Girl magazine. Mini-Me*** (then 5) was engaged in her favorite pastime – coloring, and of course brought each masterpiece to Mom and Dad for our hearty approval. Little Guy**** toddled and babbled about the house making messes for me to deal with later, but every so often, he’d see my tears, crawl into my lap, and give me “loves.” Precious moments like these renew a sense of joy in the privilege I have of influencing my little ones on a day to day basis. I have found renewed purpose within the pain.

It is now that we as parents deter the downward spiral of insanity within our society. We may feel like our efforts are small in this American struggle – flags pasted in our mini-van windows, prayers sent up for the rescue workers at Ground Zero during bedtime, a few extra dollars donated, ribbons worn on our kid-soiled T-shirts – but I think we have a calling that is a powerful weapon against the fears of tomorrow. We are engaged in quiet combat within our homes – on the offensive for the raising of an excellent future people.

Ladies, we have been given the stewardship of a great national resource. Let us teach our children godly morality, instilling in them virtues of courage, perseverance, and selflessness through loving discipline and instruction. Today we are training America’s heroes for tomorrow…”

*Bubba is our oldest daughter – Chief called her that and the name just stuck.
**Ralphie is our oldest son – he used to look like the blond kid in The Christmas Story.
***Mini-Me is third in line – and she is a carbon copy of me, I’m afraid to admit.
****Little Guy – our youngest – although he’s just as tall as me now.

In the years since that fateful day, I have seen the changes that America has gone through. Every year I re-watch the documentaries and listen to the accounts of that day. I watch firemen and cops weep over the loss of their brothers as they talk about what happened, how they wonder why they survived and others didn’t. And currently I am writing about saving lives in Afghanistan – the war that resulted from September 11th. Much has changed in America because of that day.

In my home, I see my children eleven years later, growing into good people who care about the world and are dedicated to making contributions where they can. Chief and I can see that our efforts have made a difference.

At the time, I thought Chief was being dramatic when he declared that America had changed. But, as usual, he was right.

September 11th, 2012

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