The thin blue line

Sunday, Sept. 11 marks one decade since the towers fell in New York, our Pentagon was attacked and a plane full of civilians prevented a third unknown atrocity by forcing it to crash in a field in Pennsylvania.

You likely remember where you were, what you were doing and what went through your mind.

As a cop, I was reminded of the thin blue line that represents each law enforcement officer that has fallen to protect the barrier between anarchy and a civilized society, between order and chaos, between respect for decency and lawlessness.

As I write this article, I am preparing to go to the funeral of another law enforcement officer that was killed in action.

These funerals are never easy, but they happen.

This year is on course to be one of the deadliest for law enforcement since 9/11.

Death by gunfire alone is up 17 percent. It’s important to remember not one of these lives lost was in vain. This loss of life does make some of us jaded and often cynical at times, which may explain the very pointed questions asked during an encounter with a police officer, deputy sheriff or state trooper.

Many deaths by gunfire occur during the “routine traffic stop” that we are taught is never routine. Officers also fall victim to stabbings, vehicle assaults, and blunt force trauma, all while forming that thin blue line with a warrior’s heart.

That heart can range from helping a child, similar to the Norman Rockwell painting “The Runaway,” to running into two burning towers in New York City.

It is also a heart that needs the support of the community and family to remain strong and vigilant. For some, it is a handshake. To others it is words of encouragement. I am reminded of the night we all scrambled to find the one that killed Pelham Police Officer Philip Davis.

As I went out that night looking for Philip’s killer, my own sweet wife told me, “Come home with your shield or on it” — chilling words, but a mindset that she is familiar with and knows must be instilled with confidence.

Sept. 11 is a day that we must remember. It should always bear witness that there are those that intend to do us harm, and we must stand firm so that no lives lost are in vain. We must always remember that “in valor, there is hope.”

Capt. Chris George is a commander with the Criminal Investigations Division of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. He can be reached at cgeorge@shelbyso.com.