Five years ago this morning, death descended on silver wings to claim the lives of nearly 3000 of our fellow citizens. In Arlington, VA the target was the Pentagon and both blind luck and lack of expertise on the part of the terrorist at the controls of that plane put the impact at precisely the strongest point of the building. I had friends there that day…
In the skies above Pennsylvannia, a group of everyday Americans found themselves standing as the only barrier between their group of terrorists and some people on the ground, somewhere, that they’d never met. The American spirit in them gave them the strength to hold their ground, push back at murderous cowards, and deny them the prize they sought. They paid the toll for the people on the ground in DC that day and paid in the dearest of coin.
And in New York, the icons of the Big Apple’s skyline for years became the icons of terror, hope, and heroism before collapsing, all in the span of less than 2 hours.
Five years ago those people died, 2,996 of them. Today, HoodaThunk? is joining in with 2,995 other bloggers in memory of those that passed away in those attacks. The 2,996 project seeks to recall to our minds every one of those 2,996 people, 1 blogger at a time. In this effort, we will all remember 1 specific person. We do this so we may all remember and remember all.
Today, I want to talk with you about James Patrick Leahy, policeman, husband, and father. Leahy worked at the NYPD 6th Precinct in downtown Manhattan. He was 38 that day, a father of 3 boys. When the first plane hit, Leahy did what every good cop does at the sound of trouble – he headed straight for it. His record doesn’t show he had any special training for the kind of work 9/11 demanded at the Towers and he certainly wasn’t a firefighter. It’s been reported that he didn’t have to be there but he grabbed spare air tanks for the firemen and headed inside to keep them supplied and working. He was still in there when it fell.
Leahy did a job the vast majority of us don’t want to do. He heard the call to duty and stood between the law-abiding and the criminals. He didn’t duck and cover when danger appeared, he stood tall, square, and moved right into its teeth. I don’t know what his thoughts on the war on terrorism would have been, whether he would have supported our actions thus far or not. I do know he understood something that seems to have escaped a large chunk of our populace these days.
Criminals exist and some of them exist not because they were pushed into it. They exist because they like it, because they’re lazy and don’t want to bother demonstrating the superior nature of their viewpoints. No amount of talking will make them want to obey the law and no amount of pleading will make them decide to follow it when they don’t want to. Cops do what they do in hopes of catching the crooks before someone else has to pay for their lawlessness. They remain vigilant and they move aggressively against lawbreakers both to stop them and to show to others who are thinking about it that it’s not worth it. More importantly, they continue their efforts until the crooks are caught.
The people that killed James Leahy and the others that day were people Leahy would understand very well. They and those that support them are murderers and very little else. There’s no statue of limitations on murder and that means Leahy and his fellow cops would be going after terrorists every way they could for as long as it took. He understood that there are things in life for which there is no exit strategy.
We have come a long way in pursuit of justice for the 2,996. We’ve come a long way in securing the nation and future of those of us who lived on. If anything would serve as a fitting memorial to those that died in those attacks and to James Patrick Leahy in particular, it would be a renewed commitment in those efforts. It would be a conviction that all of these people we recall here today were worth the fight and remain worth it today. It would be the promise to emulate just a little bit of James Leahy and promise to keep our attention on the goal and not necessarily on the length of the road.