9/11: Standing Between Good and Evil

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

That’s a question I see and hear everywhere on this day, each and every year that passes.

Most likely, many of you recollect watching the horrible scenario unfold on the television sets in your homes or offices.

Me, I was inside a federal holding facility in Northern Va., chatting with group of deputy sheriffs and U.S. Marshals. On my right were a row of holding cells occupied by local and federal prisoners. A small portable television sat on a wall-mounted shelf facing the control booth, but it was also positioned in a manner that allowed the prisoners to see. Most of the inmates there were federal prisoners who were awaiting transport to various prisons across the U.S.

The typical Judge Judy or Jerry Springer or Judge Joe Brown show cut away to a breaking news report. Normal jailhouse chatter stopped while everyone stared at what appeared to be a still shot of the world Trade Centers.

Roiling and boiling black and gray smoke poured from a gaping hole high up on one of the towers. Everyone watched in total disbelief. Had a plane veered off course? Then, when yet another plane struck the second tower and it was immediately obvious that these acts were planned attacks, well …

I was very near a cell where group of prisoners quickly leapt to their feet and began to wildly and bizarrely cheer at the deadly assault on our nation. They clapped and laughed and playfully punched their fellow cellmates on the arms, and they patted one another on the back as if watching a sporting event where their favorite player had just scored a game-winning point.

Then it dawned on me. This was indeed a game-winning point for them. They’d just scored a beat-the-buzzer three-pointer. Scored a touchdown. Hit a home run. A hole-in-one.

This group of men hated the U.S. with a passion and they were overjoyed—giddy—at the death and destruction.

I’ll never forget that moment. Not ever.

For me, today is a day of remembrance and reverence for those who lost their lives on that day, both innocent people inside the towers and the brave men and women who perished while attempting to save people they’d never met—strangers of all races and religions.

To this day, many first responders and others involved in search and rescue efforts still suffer both physical and mental effects. They’re lives are forever changed.

I also remember those loud cheers and laughter and the pleasure those prisoners felt when they knew thousands of Americans were dead. I saw the looks in their eyes. They hated us with all their might.

Where are those men now? Who knows, but I’d bet my last dollar that they still hate us and want us dead. Without a doubt, many of them walk and live among us.

I’m grateful for the men and women who place their lives on the line for us each and every day to keep us safe and to protect our rights and our lives. Many have lost their own lives doing just that.

Today I choose to remember the lives lost and those who still suffer.

But I cannot forget the looks in the eyes of those prisoners. Cold. Ruthless. Uncaring.

So where was I on 9/11?

Standing between good and evil, and close enough to the Pentagon to see the plumes of black smoke rising on the horizon.

 


*Visit the 9/11 Memorial.

Mike Roche: The Positive Lessons From 9/11 and Ground Zero

Mike Roche: The positives of 911

I was in high school when I watched the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center, open to the public. I like many others, admired the strength and dominance of the structures. They were the skyline of an eclectic city. Their absence leaves a void in the skyline, as well is in the country.

It is hard to believe an entire decade has slipped past me since that horrific day on September 11 2001. I was so looking forward to my daughter’s birthday and rejoining my family. I stood there at Emma Booker School that day as the President read to the children. Those same children that were unwelcome visitors to history, are now seniors in high school. They are now planning to embark on their college careers next year. On that day, one that seemed to never end. I arrived home long after my daughter had slipped off into slumber and was out the door before she had awakened. My days continued like that for weeks. Her birthday came and went without celebration.

Weeks later, we were finally celebrating her birthday with a visit to Universal Studios. I admired the resilience of the visitors to the park that day. We too had escaped the solitude that enveloped the country. Our joy was dampened, when I received the call to report to Ground Zero for a tour at the recovery site. The images, sounds and acrid odor linger with me a decade later. The scars in my lungs are a souvenir of my time spent on that hallowed ground.

While I dug through the rubble, I prayed everyday to help guide me to some discovery that would bring closure to a victim’s family. I believe it was those daily prayers that allowed me to escape without any emotional trauma.  I was comforted on a daily basis by those unselfish volunteers with the Salvation Army and The American Red Cross. I cannot begin to explain the difference they made and the strength they provided to all the rescue workers.

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What surprised me most at Ground Zero was what did survive. Stacks of papers from financial houses, bone fragments, clumps of hair and a few articles of clothing. One garment that stood out to me, was a sweater probably worn by a twenty something year old female. When the victim slipped that sweater on that morning, she had no idea how her life would be altered within the next few hours. I am sure she anticipated  an uneventful day as she brushed her teeth and closed the door to her apartment  for the last time. She no doubt looked forward to a happy hour that would never occur.

It was a year later that I was sharing a gritty, dusty shipping container with nine other bunkmates in Afghanistan. I witnessed up close the impoverished countryside that had been racked by war for decades. I thought how quickly we take for granted the simple pleasures in life such as electricity, running water, heat, air conditioning, as well as freedom from oppression. Most of all, as I stared at the stars in the dark cold night, I appreciated life.

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I wave the flag for all those victims and for their families that showed the courage to rise above the sucking vortex of life and make a difference in the world. Embrace life!

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While working as both a local cop and a federal agent, Mike Roche has spent three decades chasing bad guys and conducting behavioral assessments of stalkers and assassins. He started his career with the Little Rock Police Department. He was assigned to patrol, street crimes and as a financial crimes detective. After ten years, Mike started his federal law enforcement career with the Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco. One year later, he transferred to the U.S. Secret Service.

Throughout his career, Mike investigated financial fraud, counterfeiting, threat cases, terrorism and protection of dignitaries. Mike retired in 2012, from the U.S. Secret Service as a special agent after twenty-two years. Mike was noted for interpersonal skills while assigned as a liaison with the FBI, CIA, and local agencies. He is an adjunct instructor at St. Leo University, teaching Threat assessments of Lone Shooters and Risk Assessments of Physical Structures.

Mike Roche is the author of police procedurals, The Blue Monster and Coins of Death, as well the young adult romance/mystery Karma!. His most recent works are , Face 2 Face, a non-fiction work on Observing, Interviewing and Rapport Building, and Mass Killers: How you Can Identify, Workplace, School, or Public Killers Before They Strike.