Editor’s note: Richardson, 15th Circuit Solicitor, made these remarks Wednesday to the Coastal Carolina Shields, a group of retired law enforcement officers, at their annual remembrance of the first-responders and victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Twelve years ago today, our nation was rocked into a period of unwelcome, unwarranted and unprecedented change when 19 brainwashed terrorist hijacked four airplanes and used them as missiles against our nation. They did this at the command and leadership of one who was evil incarnate. As a result, almost 3,000 innocent men women and children lost their lives.
Since that time we have toppled governments in Iraq and Afghanistan and we stand at the door of war with Syria. We have seen our economy go through near collapse with the housing market, the bank bailout and the automobile bailout. Unemployment has skyrocketed.
But my wish is that this sacred day should not be tied to war, money or terrorism. There is no way to completely wipe away these things because they are a part of life. My wish though is that the focus would be on better things.
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Today, we should remember the lives lost. We should also dedicate ourselves to positive change as a symbol of doing something to honor those lives. Remembering is the easy part. Doing becomes the harder part.
In the days and weeks following this horrific attack, patriotism soared. Our Congress gathered together on the Capitol steps as one and with one voice sang “God Bless America”. Democrat and Republican stood side by side. Men and women, black and white all unified. There were no red states or blue states because we all had Rudy Giuliani as our mayor.
On Sunday, September the 16th and Sunday, September the 23rd, we hung out with our children and our spouses. Family and friends became important again.
How long did that last? How about today? What about 12 years later? Are we divided by race and gender? How about between the GOP and the Democrats?
A casual look at any map will show you the stark contrast of a nation divided into red states and blue states. But here’s another question. What if we had followed the first examples that we witnessed the first responders?
Think for a moment back to that day. The police, firemen, EMS and the New York City Port Authority rushing up on those streets that must have seemed so surreal.
What if we had learned from them to put our fellow men ahead of ourselves? I still remember the television images of some young fireman standing at the door to, I believe, the north tower. It must have seemed like standing at the doorway to hell. You can’t tell me that wasn’t fear in his eyes. He had to be scared to death. He understood the dangers, the risks and the consequences of stepping through that door. But he had made a promise.
The police, the port authority, EMS, fire and many of you have made that same promise: To protect and to serve. And man did they ever keep their promise. That young man kept his promise too. As people fled from the buildings, I’m sure those guys would have loved to have had the option to run away. But they didn’t. They couldn’t.
We should take this day to learn from their courage and their bravery but we should also take from that response that a promise made is a promise kept.
Many people here today are retired law enforcement. You’ve made that same promise and I guarantee that if tasked with such a terrible tragedy you would be willing to fulfill that obligation when called upon. We are so much better off because of the fulfillment.
Local law enforcement at Horry County Sheriff’s office, the Horry County Police, Myrtle Beach Police, North Myrtle, Conway, Aynor, Georgetown, Pawley’s and many others serve our area and also stand ready to fulfill their obligation if called upon and I am so proud to call so many of them my friends.
But what if our citizens would honor their promises and obligations? What if they honored their name in everything that they do?
Maybe we could unite in planning and preparation. Maybe together we could cut down on crime and maltreatment. Maybe our differences would be our strengths. Maybe if we would follow the lead of our first examples after the tragedy, we would value our words more. Look out for one another more.
You know when Jesus was asked about his purpose he said “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
We are all called by that commission, to serve one another. It really doesn’t matter if we wear a badge or a shield, we are still commissioned. These police and fire officers gave us an updated example of that commission just 12 years ago.
Today we remember those who gave everything but let’s do more than remember. Let’s honor their memory by dedicating ourselves in the service of man. Let’s use this day to remember our commission.
We lost so many but there are many left who are in need of a touch of kindness. Let September 11 be a reminder to walk honorably even in fear.
To speak truthfully even in distress and to serve especially when it hurts.
God bless you all.