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“Brother let me be your shelter / I’ll never leave you all alone / I can be the one you call / When you’re feelin’ low / Brother let me be your fortress / When the night winds are driving on / Be the one to light the way / Bring you home”

Fourteen years ago, I had just returned from a trip to El Paso. I had driven all night and gotten home at around 3 in the morning. I had to work at 3pm, so I woke up around 9am. As I usually did back then, I turned on the television to CNN and went to make some breakfast. I could hear from the voices and the sounds coming out the television that something really bad had happened somewhere, but it was the news, they always show bad things happening.

Of course, you know what happened. A lot of people died that morning, setting off a chain of events that has made this world a little more complicated.

Many of the people who died that morning were law enforcement, firefighters, and first responders. True to their heroic nature and sense of duty, they ran toward danger to help save those who were running away from it. If you listen to the sounds of that morning, you’ll hear a certain kind of chirping in the background after the towers fell. That chirping is from a device worn by firefighters on their gear. If they are motionless for 30 seconds, the chirping goes off to let others know where they are.

There was a lot of chirping that morning coming from a multitude of fallen firefighters.

I never served in any kind of uniformed service, but I have made long-lasting friendships with men and women in my profession and in my personal life. I love many of them like I love my own siblings, and the feeling is mutual. When I’m in trouble, they are quick to reach out and help, just like my brother or sister do. To see the look of anguish in the firefighters and others looking for their loved ones amongst the rubble breaks my heart because I know that they were looking for their siblings, and I can only imagine one or two things more horrible than losing a sibling.

The great majority of us don’t go through life alone. We don’t want to. We are creatures who form packs, social groups to support and protect each other and carry each other through good and bad times. We form bonds that are very strong with people who form bonds with us… And that may be the one thing that saves us all from our own humanity.

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René F. Najera, DrPH

I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.

1 reply

  1. It’s taken a few days, in part, to collect myself, the day still haunts all military as a day we failed to protect our nation.
    I’ve also been a bit busy, covering a buddy’s midnight to 8 shift, then my own mid-shift.

    On 9/11, we were driving to my parents house, up I-95 from the direction of the Delaware border, what we were doing before is lost to memory.
    Our first hint something was amiss was the sign over the highway, “Avoid Manhattan”. I joked with my wife that “someone must’ve hacked the sign and disliked Manhattan”. We continued our usual conversation until we reached my parents home, a bit off of I-420.
    I was frozen, looking at the two burning towers, slumping into a seat at the kitchen table. Numb, as one is an accident, two is intentional.
    Everyone who in any way, helped defend this nation felt that way that day and after, until the wars. One oddly aimed, one properly aimed.
    I softly said, “No!”, when the first tower fell. With despair, I watched the second tower fall.
    I learned a couple of years later that a cousin died in one tower.
    I also lost touch with three online friends, who were teaching me things about computer networking and system administration. As it’s 2015 and they’ve not appeared and that they worked in those towers, I’m certain that they perished.

    I’ll only relate two wartime experiences.
    Learning that our prisoners we turned over were tortured and waterboarding *is* torture. Those who go through SERE training know that very well. We started letting prisoners go, disarmed, of course, with an admonishment, they’d be turned over next time. Few returned for a second round.
    The other, the fear in men going out on war patrol, when “second amendment remedies” was blithely stated on international television. Men going out on patrol feared that their nation and homes would be in flames if one person was voted into the oval office. I calmed down the junior enlisted with, “It’s political smack talk”, the senior officers and enlisted was deadly calm, “Well treat them the same way we treat AQ and the Taliban if they’re fucking up”, with much vocal agreement from those senior most to me.
    None of those persons present in that entire unit will ever forgive the Tea Party for that.


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