Rep. Tim Whelan's Reflections on 9-11-01

Serving as a State Trooper on the day the world changed...

From State Rep. Timothy Whelan, a retired Massachusetts State Trooper:

On September 11, 2001 I was assigned to the State Police Truck Team and had worked a night detail in Natick the evening before. I took some vacation time off that morning to get some rest when I awoke to my Sergeant on the phone telling me to suit up and turn on a TV immediately. Asking him what had happened, he reiterated his direction to turn on a TV right away to see what was happening and await further orders.

I turned the TV on just in time to watch Flight 175 crash into the south tower (9:03am). Knowing right away that this was an attack, I jumped into my cruiser and headed out to patrol and to await those further orders. None would be given.

Initially there was shock and confusion in all circles, including Massachusetts law enforcement. We all wanted to do something, anything, but didn't really know what we should do. Many of my colleagues went to local schools, colleges, public buildings, etc. to provide added security. Lacking any other direct orders, everyone wanted to do something to protect our citizens so deploying to potential targets made perfect sense. The State Police deployed specialty units to provide added security at Logan Airport, but my unit was still floating in limbo waiting for a mission.

Later that morning I was standing at "parade rest" outside my cruiser at the Mass. Pike exit 10 (Auburn) interchange when I noticed that people driving through the tolls were honking their horns, giving me a thumbs up, and calling out their thanks for my being there. As many of you recall, it was a scary time. Very scary. We were all afraid another attack was coming, not knowing where that attack may be. No further orders came so I stayed for 14 or 15 hours that day, in plain view to all so that folks passing by could clearly see that the State Police were on the job and hopeful this would provide them a small sense of security in a very insecure time. It seemed to make folks feel better, so I stayed. For three days in a row I went to the same, high traffic spot and stood out for up to 16 hours a day watching traffic and letting folks see that public safety was on the job. It wasn’t much but it was what I could do.

Truth be told, over the succeeding weeks fears of terrorists using a large commercial vehicle as a method of delivery for a WMD grew greater, so my teammates and I then got very busy, working long hours and not seeing much of our homes or families. A lot of time was invested in Boston inspecting large trucks, especially inter-modal cargo boxes that came in via international shipping, to make sure nothing nefarious would get into our country and hurt our citizens.

Nothing we did will ever approach the incredible sacrifice of first responders and private citizens in New York, Arlington, or over Shanksville. To this day I stand in awe of their service and selflessness in the face of terrifying circumstances. Whether it was heroes like Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney on board American flight 11 calmly relaying important information to American Airlines ground personnel, Welles Crowther (the man in the red bandana) saving over 10 lives at the cost of his own, the police officers and the firefighters climbing dozens of flights of stairs in those towers to reach victims, or Todd Beamer and the heroic passengers of Flight 93 fighting to take the plane back, we will never know where or how women and men find such courage in the face of absolute horror. We must remain forever grateful that people like this lived.

In closing, please never forget the fallen or the families that mourn their loss, still. Never forget the lessons learned that day about the terminal dangers of indescribable hate and evil that we must forever be vigilant against. Also, please never forget that selfless bravery in the service of others we witnessed that day and beyond, and know that when we stand united as a nation America will never be defeated. God bless the USA.


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