Today, I live in a peaceful and beautiful area of North Carolina on the Albemarle Sound. Our county seat, Hertford, is a quaint, turn of the 19th-century small town located in Perquimans County. Hertford also was the home of baseball great Jim “Catfish” Hunter. Historically, the Perquimans County Courthouse was erected in 1825.
My home here is exactly opposite from where I lived in northern Virginia, with all of the problems associated with a Washington, D.C. suburb. There came a day that would change America forever: Sept. 11, 2001. On that fateful day, I was supervisor of the Traffic Enforcement Section of the Fairfax County Police Department.
It was our practice to arrive at work early enough to have a cup of coffee together and “solve the world’s problems” before going out to work. One of my officers exclaimed, “Did you see that? An airliner struck one of the World Trade Center Towers!” We concluded that it must have been a pilot error of some type.
As we watched the live coverage and reflected on the tragedy, we saw the second airliner approaching the second World Trade Center Tower and strike it. These were no accidents, and for once, we didn’t have the answers.
Instead, we were stunned beyond explanation about what we had observed. Our office became surreally quiet as the coverage and commentary continued. By this time, the Fairfax County Command Post, located downstairs, had been activated and fully staffed for the work ahead.
Fairfax County is adjacent to Washington, DC, so our area needed to expect the worst. Due to our proximity to Washington, anything that happened there would affect us in a big way. We were in a high state of alert. It was not known what the day would bring, but we were ready.
Every aircraft that entered the Washington, D.C. area was considered suspicious, and a potential threat until uncertainties were favorably resolved. The number of these was countless, but the hard work of many in the command post coordinating with other agencies validated their presence. The stress level was the highest any of us had ever experienced, excluding those who had served in combat.
The day moved on, and then it happened: an airliner, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon.
To add to the stress and anxiety in the command post, personnel received calls from their spouses, family and friends who worked in Arlington and were in the path of the doomed hijacked airliner as it descended to hit the Pentagon. Before hitting the Pentagon, some described the doomed plane as it flew slightly above their roofs, just missing them.
Then there was the hijacked airliner that crashed in a rural Pennsylvania field. Most suspected it was targeted to hit the U.S. Capitol or the White House. Brave Americans on board did not allow their evil captors to succeed, however.
We all were consumed by what would happen next. We stayed glued to the large television in the command post and watched the continued news coverage of these attacks on our country and, later, our retaliatory bombing retaliation strikes in Afghanistan. There were shouts of jubilation when coverage of these attacks aired.
A memo circulated that anyone who wished to meet with our chaplain to pray, meditate, or talk would be allowed to do so the next day at noon. I point this out because, until that moment, open praying or other religious activities had not been permitted in Fairfax County government buildings. “A time for God now,” I thought, “It’s about time.”
At noon on Sept. 12, 2001, some of us met with the chaplain to pray, meditate, or talk out fears or other concerns from the previous day. My turn came when we arrived at the “time to talk” session. The chaplain asked for those who wished to speak to do so. I believe that I was first.
I said I thought it possible that God might be looking down on us and asking: “Do I know you? You, as a nation, do not talk to Me anymore; you, as a nation, have forsaken your trust and recognition of Me and your scriptural heritage to make room for other beliefs and false gods.”
I concluded my remarks that just maybe if we, as a nation, spent more time in prayer as we were doing then, days like the previous one would not have happened. This was the only day that a time of worship was allowed in a Fairfax County building.
We spent the following days and weeks supporting the Pentagon police and other federal agencies, rescuing victims and helping with recovery efforts. This coordinated effort involved finding and removing victims, providing crime scene security and traffic control on the main thoroughfares surrounding the Pentagon.
This support was a long and tiring team effort for everyone, but it was accomplished with extreme dedication by all involved. We had been attacked, and we wanted to do our part with total energy and professionalism.
After our duties at the Pentagon were completed, the law enforcement agencies involved designed a beautiful lapel pin authorized to be worn on uniforms and civilian police attire. The pin later became the symbol on Virginia’s Fight Terrorism license plate.
A short time after that, a task force was formed that included federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The purpose was to determine exactly who may be living in our midst that might be members of this culture that had attacked us.
Local police were tasked with conducting surveillance on suspicious homes and businesses in their jurisdiction. We could not infringe on personal rights but we could watch and stake out questionable locations and document times, persons, descriptions and activities as well as record license plate numbers. We then forwarded the information to federal agencies.
We must come back to who we were; we must pray to God as a nation and as individuals. We must reinstitute the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. We must pray that those elected government officials that do not serve Him be voted from power and replaced by Christian people like those in our history who made this nation great.
Change must take place. It is now or never, and only we can make it happen. It begins in our homes; we can no longer allow others to raise our children and not bother to vote for our public servants and hold them accountable. We, as citizens, must step up to the plate and take control.
I am a baby boomer and I fear for my children and their children in the years to come. What lies ahead for them if the current dangerous trends of the U.S. continue to grow from the seeds that are planted today?
God Bless America, and God bless all of you.