After the tragedy which took place on September 11, 2001 my wife Karen and I reacted much like many other Americans. We donated money to charities set up to help the victims and their families and went out and bought flashlights, batteries, work gloves and dry clothes for the rescue workers at Ground Zero.
I watched and listened to the reports describing the attack and the immediate response by members of the fire, police and emergency services departments. It became clear that many people from all walks of life were rising to the occasion; however being a police officer myself, I felt a special connection to those individuals who didn't think twice but without hesitation responded to help those in need.
The word "hero" was used over and over again during those days but somehow I didn't feel that it went far enough to describe the fire, police and emergency medical personnel who responded to the attack. Their actions were honorable and brought even more respect to their professions. They put aside feelings of fear and despair to perform their duty...and yet I still felt that there was something else involved.
As days went by I met with Detective Steve Vetrone at the Glen Cove Police Department and explained my feelings...I had an idea and I wanted to know what he thought. As Steve and I spoke about the tragic events of the past days I sketched out a picture using stick figures (I'm not even close to being an artist). I knew Steve had strong feelings about the attack and was the first from our department to volunteer to go into Ground Zero and help any way he could. Steve then introduced me to his brother, Kevin, an artist who had recently come to visit from California. I showed Kevin my sketch and within a day he had illustrated a perfect picture of everything I had imagined.
Some of you may have seen the picture on tee shirts or in store windows of local businesses. The image was very well received and caught on quickly.
I was advised in a letter that a T-shirt with the image hangs in the office of Bishop William Murphy in Rockville Centre. Several of the pictures hang in the windows of the Glen Cove Boys and Girls Club. My hope is that the picture will soon be hanging in the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC.
The picture delivers this simple message in black and white: "without hesitating, firemen, police officers and emergency medical personnel laid down their lives for others...strangers." When people look at the picture and read the words, I hope they will understand that these rescue workers were more than heroes and that you don't have to die to be a hero. I attended many of the funerals of the fallen "heroes" and saw the families that were left to mourn. The small children, often holding an American flag, had the greatest impact on me.
What I want people to understand, especially the children of the rescue workers, is that their loved one laid down their life for another without consideration of race, creed or color. They are all heroes, honorable and dutiful, but above that they are good men and women who by their actions proved goodness exists through the most trying of times.