End the silence on torture
The sacrifice of the heroes of 9/11 must not be used as a justification for torture
September 11, 2001 will always remain an infamous day to the world. But to the men and women of the NYPD and FDNY it remains indelibly stamped in their minds. For on that tragic September morning in the dying embers of summer, they raced towards lower Manhattan by any means necessary.
Battling their way through the sea of humanity, fearfully fleeing the devastation, these men frantically checked their pagers and mobile phones for any information that may enlighten them with regard to the inferno which was about to engulf them. They stood in ranks on Liberty, Church and Barkley Streets as terrified civilians by the thousands fled north on the elevated West Side Highway.
These individuals whose aspirations in life were the most humbling – save enough for a house in the ‘burbs, enough to put their children through college, that long dreamed-of trip back to the old sod or whatever country bore their ancestors, the highlight of their week shooting the breeze over a few ice-cold beers – for many hundreds of these men these dreams and aspirations were to lay unfulfilled in the ruins and the wreckage of the World Trade Center.
As they donned their breathing equipment and held their torch-fire axes, many stood in silence, attempting to comprehend the incomprehensible as they stared skyward at what appeared to many as Dante’s Inferno. Some made frantic cellphone calls home, fully knowing it may be their last, some blessed themselves and prayed to their god, many thinking they may see him soon. If they were fearful, they did not show it, for it was not fear and self-motivation that propelled these individuals into the World Trade Center and up smoke-filled stairwells.
It was, to quote Chief Edward F. Croker, an Irish-born American of the fire department of New York from 1899-1911, “an act of unselfish bravery.” Chief Croker said, “When a man becomes a firefighter, his greatest act of bravery has already been accomplished.” These sons and daughters of immigrants were the finest examples of bravery humanity has ever produced. The compassion beating in the hearts of these individuals will remain unsurpassed in our lifetime. They defined everything great about the nation and the unconquerable soul of the human spirit.
On the morning of this barbaric act, as millions viewed throughout the world on TV screens, questioning the very existence of a god in the face of such barbarism, the individuals of FDNY and NYPD restored my faith in the existence of a just compassionate god. For their actions exemplified that. They shall forever remain deep in our hearts and in our memory, as those who sacrificed their lives so that others might live. No greater tribute can be bestowed upon them.
Just for a moment, remember where you were on that fearful morning and the fear you felt and think what these individuals were doing at that very exact moment. Yet the story of these individuals who emanated everything great about mankind has been tragically hijacked by those dark forces of mankind, those who took the sacrifice of these people and repeatedly used it as an excuse for the justification of torture. These men did not give their lives so that people could torture in the name of political ends.