What has changed since Sept. 11, 2001?
I’m sure many people remember 9-11 in different ways, some may remember where they were when they learned our country was being attacked, some will remember the horror of watching the towers fall, others perhaps the look of disbelief on the faces of people at ground zero. I remember working court security at the Grand County Courthouse the day of the attacks. I, like many others, was upset over the events, but unlike others, I knew it would happen eventually and it did. Some cried, others were cursing angrily, but most were in shock, shock at what happened, where it happened and the sheer brutality of it all.
In the aftermath of the events, things were haywire for a time and then began to return to normal or we became used to the changes. Over time some people have forgotten the true impact of those events, the lives of people that were changed and since then, a struggle to prevent another incident like 9-11. Today the country is involved in a multi¬front war on extremist groups like AI Qaeda and so far we are winning. We have put them on the defensive, m~de them worry about what is going to happen next and where it will happen. We have taken the fight to the enemy and in turn, kept the wolf away from our door. Are we immune to another attack? No, nothing we can do can ever make us totally immune, but we are safer. Seatbelts cannot guarantee you’ll survive an auto accident, but you’re more likely to survive one.
I sit here, after a long day of training and mentoring a group of Afghan police officers, in a small room with few amenities, looking back on the day, 9-11-2008, realizing how different my life has been since 9-11-2001. My, my, my, how things have changed.
I am currently serving as a police mentor and trainer in Afghanistan. I work every day because there is nothing else to do and there is always work that needs to be done. I try and impart some of my wisdom and experience on the Afghan police that are constantly taking the fight to the enemy. I deal with the corrupt officials, both in and out of the police service, the lack of consequences for committing crimes, the lack of education, the lack of health care facilities, the lack of clean water and sometimes the sheer lack of hope. I spend my days trying to get the Afghan police service to a point of self sufficiency, to a point they can manage themselves without reverting to their old ways. Every day is a new problem or the repeat of an old one.
I get up early and search our vehicles for explosives, every day, just like getting dressed and brushing your teeth. Yeah, we have guards for our camp, but trust is a hard earned commodity here. And speaking of the camp, it’s small, just a bit bigger than the Middle School property in Granby and has a ten to 20foot wall around it. We have Afghan guards that man the towers and the gates: it’s akin to prison except we are trying to keep people out instead of in. I have a good understanding of how a prisoner lives.
I live in body armor designed to stop rifle bullets, covered with ammunition pouches, a medical pouch and two tourniquets. I travel in armored vehicles with g rated tires, two or three spare tires and three cases of water. I carry weapons, for self protection and carry them so much that I feel undressed when I go on vacation.
I rely on translators to get my point across and hope that I am able to say the right thing and they are able to translate what I say. I go days without speaking to my family or friends; and I go for months without seeing my family. I have to drink water out of bottles, food that is prepackaged and usually precooked and take doxycycline very day to prevent malaria.
I watch the police I train get shot, kidnapped, beheaded, blown up and cheated out of pay. I watch them work in ratty uniforms and no boots. I see them man machine guns in the back of police trucks wearing no body armor or helmets. And why, so they can earn the equivalent of one hundred dollars a month. Most are illiterate and can’t even sign their name. They are simple men, with few needs, living in a country where death is everywhere. It is so common here that people are buried next to the highway and nobody thinks that is odd. They only want to work, earn a living and someday get married and have children. They want to prosper and make a better life for themselves. But in the end many of police die, get severely injured, or simply become disgusted and quit. It is a hard life here and the weak do not last long.
People always ask me why, I even ask myself why, why I do this? I have moments of doubt about the war on terror and my place in that war. Am I doing the right thing, am I part of something righteous, should I continue to be a part of this war. And when I am sitting at my small desk asking myself those questions I look over at a small picture frame. Contained inside that small frame is two smaller pictures, pictures of two small boys, smiling innocently back at me. And then I understand what has changed for me since 9-11.
I have had two sons since 9-11. Two boys that will never know what things were like before 9-11. I do not want them to become a victim of another incident like 9-11, nor do I want them to know the terror that extremists can suddenly bring to your door. I want them to stay innocent as long as possible. I’m their father. It’s my job to protect them, to shelter them, to keep the wolf as far away from the door as possible. Just like other fathers and mothers have done since parenthood began and continue to do now.
What has changed since 9-11? Everything has changed, including me.
Afghanistan Police Program
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