Thursday, September 11, 2014

Perspective on 9/11

On 23 February 1945, five Marines and a US Navy Corpsman stopped what they were doing, and helped raise a steel pipe for a makeshift flagpole over Mount Suribachi. The moment was seen by the men of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine divisions committed to battle on the volcanic island of Iwo Jima. The gesture helped rally the Marines on the island, and was noted thousands of times over as part of the motivation that helped usher the Marines to what is historically regarded as their costliest victory.

6,821 US servicemen lost their lives taking the island. and 19,217 were evacuated from island with critical injuries.

On September 11th, 2001, firefighters George Johnson and  Dan McWilliams of Ladder 157 (FDNY), and Billy Eisengrein of Rescue 2 (FDNY), improvised a haphazard flag pole at the heart of "ground zero", erecting an American Flag as a sign of hope in the face of unspeakable loss, and defiance in the face of unfathomable hate. The Flag was seen as a rallying point for rescuers at ground zero, and helped motivate the thousands of rescuers and volunteers tasked with the securing and stabilizing Manhattan Island after the worst terrorist attack in US history.

Over 2,600 people were killed in New York on 9/11,  with the overall total for the day exceeding 3,000 fatalities and estimated 6.000 injured.

Included in that total, however, are 343 members of the New York Fire Department who were in or near the towers when they came down. The single largest loss of life for the emergency services in modern history. It is widely believed that over half of those men who died that day advanced into the buildings after it had become clear that the structural integrity of the towers had been compromised. Yet knowing that, those men went in anyway.

Today, the men and women of the US Marine Corp (and their Navy Corpsmen allies) and the Fire services of the US continue on, doing what they have always done.  They put their lives on the line effecting policies that they seldom have any control over, in the face is situations they did not necessarily make. They pay in blood, sweat, and tears for the decisions of others, and still answer the call whenever it is put out. 

I am proud beyond words for the service that my father gave this country during his two decades as a US Marine Corps Officer. And I am humbled to have served my community as a volunteer municipal firefighter for the time I did.

These facts combined form the lens through which I choose to remember, and reflect upon September 11th, 2001.