On that horrible day North America learned the fear that many around the world deal with over and over. There are too many places in the world where violence is a way of life. We had been untouched on our own soil for decades. We saw terrorism from afar on our television screens.
First responders though knew about violence. They saw it on the streets. They were the witnesses of what people can do to each other at their worst. And yet they ran in knowing that they would find would scar them. If they survived.
The media has no problem writing about the misdeeds of those on the front lines. When the police screw up it's front page news. They rarely get good press. On September 12 the front pages of North American papers hailed their bravery. Many of those praised though would never know. Their remains, like so many innocent victims, lay in the smoldering rubble. They were gone. Their families would forever mourn their loss.
It changed me. Before September 11 I never really gave much thought to those who face death with courage every day. First responders were just public service people doing a job. I would never have made a special effort to thank them for the job they do. I didn't try to get to know them.
That changed. There was one man in Florida where we lived at the time that completed that change. He was our adopted grandpa for the boys. He was also a retired fireman from Long Beach. His brothers and sisters on the force had rushed into the towers. Few returned.
We watched Steve crumple up and sob. His grief was overpowering. I vowed from that day to make sure that any first responder I met would be met with respect and thanks for their jobs.
In the past decade I have been honoured to know many police, EMS, fire and outreach workers. They all run into the fire. Had they been in New York City that day they would have been in the dust helping those who were in need.
North America changed 11 years ago for almost everyone. The ones who didn't change were the ones that rushed in. They did what they did every day and what first responders continue to do. They rush in to danger to save those who need them. Some things never change.