On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was conducting a training event at a decommissioned U.S. Naval air station located in South Weymouth (Mass.), approximately 20 miles south of Boston’s Logan International Airport. It was a clear morning, and the flights leaving Logan were in sight as they headed to points unknown. Two of those flights were American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175.
While I was outside, a participant’s cell phone rang and we learned that a plane (American Flight 11) had hit the World Trade Center. We made it back to the classroom in search of information just in time to witness the second plane (United 175) strike the towers. Soon reports filtered in about other planes, and the realization that we were under attack—on our own soil—became very apparent. Training was quickly canceled and the individual process of digesting what was occurring in America began.
The events of that day became even more personal when I learned that one of my best friends, Brian David Sweeney, had been on the United flight. Brian was a former U.S. Naval pilot and Top Gun instructor whom I’d lived with in San Diego . He’d since retired and was working for a defense firm developing future weapons systems for aircraft. He traveled to Los Angeles once or twice a month for meetings. His trip was to be a short one as we were to have dinner later that week, along with his new wife Julie at their new house in nearby Barnstable, Mass.
Tragically, that never happened. Brian was a true American hero and patriot who served his country and influenced thousands around him. He stood for everything that’s good about humanity and the U.S.—including honor, dignity, service, love of God and your fellow man, and freedom. He was larger than life, and his loss will always reverberate within me. It’s why I reentered law enforcement, and why I still remain in the field.
As officers, we’re charged with protecting, enforcing and preserving the Constitution, and maintaining the delicate balance of freedom and the greater good of the people we protect. Those were the very things that several soulless cowards attempted to destroy that day. As American police officers, we have a job unlike any other officer in the world: We protect a legislative mandate that ensures freedom for all through free will, enterprise and self determination. As we have seen in the Middle East and elsewhere, police forces are often misused as tools of oppressive governments to enforce the will of one upon many, but that’s not the case here. Instead, we’re charged with protecting our population from those who inflict harm upon them, who deprive others of their safety, security and personal rights through oppression, fear, violence and unjust control.
Make no mistake, as the events of 9/11 proved, there are many in the world that see our system of autonomy, democracy and personal freedoms as something to be destroyed. Such efforts took shape that Tuesday in September when Brian, like so many other American heroes, lost his life. We can’t change that loss, but on the anniversary of the event that failed to bring down a great nation, I ask each of you to reaffirm your commitment to your role as a peace officer and as a protector of the Constitution. I ask you to remain vigilant so that anyone who tries to destroy our way of life shall always fail.