Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lessons Learned?

September 11, 2001, the day the USA changed.

I remember where I was and what I was doing 10 years ago. I was at home and asleep, awakened by a friend who told me to turn on the TV. At first I was grumpy from having been disturbed from much needed rest, after being relentlessly tired from working at one of the busiest Paramedic ambulances in LA City. But then, like being slapped in the face, I was shocked wide awake, to see what was happening in New York. I watched as the second plane hit the 2nd tower, and at no time did I ever think anything but terrorist attack. In the beginning, there was speculation as to what was happening, thinking only a small plane had tragically hit the first tower. But I came in late, and immediately saw things as everyone else was now coming to grips to. This was no accident.

Then the reports of the Pentagon being hit, and possibly more planes unaccounted for. To be honest, I was never in fear of an attack here in Los Angeles. I don't know why, I guess I felt like they were targeting the East Coast and Government buildings. Later, we did find out that many places were targeted, with Los Angeles being listed. Though the world was now on alert, I don't remember being called in to staff any extra resources. There may have been some, but I just don't recall any right now. Some Firefighters spent their vacations in New York, working for free on their Fire Engines, while the NY firefighters worked to find survivors in the rubble of the World trade Centers.

From my perspective as a Firefighter, we changed in many ways. Our tactics changed. Our state of alertness changed.

But what is more important is how we changed as people after that day. We were one. We were no longer LAFD or LACountyFD or FDNY. We were Firefighters. We were First Responders. We were Brothers and Sisters. Yes, there were Fire Dept rivalries. Just like USC vs UCLA, people had their pride, sometimes misplaced, sometimes foolish.

As we find out more and more about the tragedy of 9/11, we also find out more about the acts of complete strangers helping out complete strangers. Not just people involved with Public Safety, but just your normal everyday person, who also risked their lives to help others. People with no training, or knowledge of the dangers facing them, who only had one thing on their mind. To help another person live.

We also saw that, how in most "doomsday" predictions, people are "predicted" to turn on each other, killing each other for their money, possessions, food, water, you name it. People are supposed to think only of themselves and throw you over the cliff so that they could live. But it didn't happen. People heard cries for help and helped. Groups that left as a team, found their way out as a team.

I guess this is how it is when the perceived "enemy" is from the outside.

Unfortunately, we seem to be divided again. I guess we didn't learn from the selfless acts of strangers that day, that gave for the greater good. "We" are back to "me, myself, and I." I guess this is how it is when the perceived "enemy" is on the inside. Liberal/Conservative. Republican/Democrat. Fox/CNN.

In the end, we are all just people who want the same thing. Food, shelter, and safety. Together, we can achieve this. Divided, we fail. Now go ahead and blame the other guy for it being this way.

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