This past weekend at church, the pastor opened service by talking about the events of September 11, 2001. He honored the sacrifices of the men and women who lost their lives in the police, fire and first responder community. There was a tribute video for a local officer killed in the line of duty. When they showed that his widow and daughters were in the congregation, it was a powerful moment.
Then it began, I could feel my body beginning to heat up as the pastor talked about police officers and their sense of duty and honor. My wife squeezed my hand because she knew how I felt about what was coming next. We’d been there on several occasions, and I always responded the same way.
“Would all of our law enforcement officers stand up,” the pastor instructed.
My legs felt like cement, and my butt was glued to the chair. I never stand for these things. I appreciate the thought, but as for public acknowledgement for simply doing our jobs, I prefer not to stand. I mean, we don’t call out school teachers, cashiers or stay-at-home parents. I’ll clap and cheer like crazy for them, but I just do not feel comfortable standing up.
Besides, our home church is the third largest church in America, so it wasn’t like standing among your community of family and friends. So as my thoughts returned to that 11th day in September, emotions began to well up. It was tough on everyone. My SWAT unit was immediately activated to one of the nation’s top three critical infrastructures.
We understood the implications. Yet, with so much chaos, we weren’t able to consider the enormity of the injuries and loss of lives in New York, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania’s field of heroes. Our call to duty came before grieving the loss of our brother in blue and the fire services.
Still, I didn’t want to stand up.
Then I felt the hands from my friends sitting behind us begin to pat my back. They were so encouraging. I looked at Leah and she gave me that neutral expression that said, “I’m with you either way.” Finally, I quick peeked at Max. He looked a little confused but excited by the energy in the room.
Mostly, I looked at the grieving widow and her two daughters. I sprung to me feet. It really didn’t matter what I did or didn’t feel like doing. It wasn’t about me or my feelings. These folks clapped because they appreciated what we had chosen to do as a living, and possibly because of that decision they lived lives a little safer.
I felt beads of water roll down my back, and the dampness behind my knees, but at that moment it didn’t matter. I stood up because I’d been through tough times over twenty-five years on the job. I stood up because caring people wanted to show appreciation. I stood up for my friends and family. Mostly I stood up for those who no longer could.
And you know what? It didn’t suck.
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