Growing up in New York, I watched the twin towers of the World Trade Center going up in the early 1970s. I recall how, at times, one of the buildings was rising a few floors faster than the other. But once it was all said and done, there they were — those two monolithic, perfectly symmetrical towers that, while nowhere near as ornate and distinctive as the Empire State Building, still managed to add a sleek modern touch to the classic Manhattan skyline.
The morning of 9/11, I watched numbly — as did we all — as the towers, and by extension our nation's psyche, were attacked by a monstrously calculating enemy we'd soon know a lot more about.
We all have our stories and memories from that catastrophic day. As divisive as the political climate is today, it's not hard to remember the unity and call to arms that many in this country felt as the tons of rubble finally came to rest.
That event, for better or worse, has defined a good part of this country's mood, balance and culture since it happened, and so on this upcoming anniversary, there will be an expected (and, in my opinion, appropriate) amount of attention and spotlight put back on it.
Here in Huntington Beach, for a number of police officers, there will also be thoughts of friendships that were forged in the brutal aftermath of 9/11, when a new brotherhood was formed.
Motor Officer Bobby Frahm, who has been with the Huntington Beach Police Department since 1992, explained to me how his life changed 10 years ago.
"After the event, the Huntington Beach Police Officers Assn. wanted to do something to help the departments back East that lost so many officers," he said. "So we started selling T-shirts to raise some funds. The department got really involved in helping to get the word out, and then the community responded and it really took off. In just a few months, we actually raised $90,000. In December of 2001, about 12 of us flew back to New York to present the money, which was split equally between NYPD, the Fire Department and the Port Authority."
And while they were back there, Frahm said, bonds began to form.
"A few of our guys worked side-by-side at ground zero with some of the Port Authority cops," he said. "We became good friends with these guys. So much so that a couple of months later, we arranged to have these men we met come out to Huntington Beach for a ceremony we had related to 9/11. And since these guys had barely had a day off since 9/11, we told them to bring their wives and make it like a vacation. So they did."
In April 2002, Frahm and several other HBPD officers went back to ground zero to help work at the site. "At that point, we were looking for lots of personal effects," Frahm said. "Then, for the Fourth of July parade that year out here, Tommy Kennedy and Kevin Devlin, two of the New York cops, came out to ride in the parade."
Kennedy, a Port Authority sergeant, told me his bond with the HBPD officers was like a gift that emerged from the tragedy.
"I was right there when the towers came down," he said. "We ran down the street. Some of us cut left; some cut right. The ones that cut right were killed. So we got lucky. It was a horrific day.
"So today, to call some of these guys my best friends in the world, means the world. I came to Huntington Beach and spoke at the high school, spoke to City Council, attended a ceremony at the pier. Bobby Frahm and those guys are not 'like' my brothers — they are my brothers."
And the bonds have continued to grow stronger. Frahm has gone back East five times to ride in the Police Unity Tour, an annual bike ride charity that starts at ground zero and wends its way to Washington, D.C. All of the money raised goes to help fund the National Law Enforcement Memorial. And he rides with his buddies from the New York departments.
Frahm said his thoughts on 9/11 will be with his friends in New York — "my brothers," as he calls them.
May our thoughts and prayers be in abundance for all of the victims, their families and friends. And may we remain vigilant against the terrorists who still have our country (and others) in their crosshairs.
A special note of thanks to our own Huntington Beach officers who quietly made a difference by pitching in, lending a hand and being there for their brothers (and thanks to Shirley Davis for bringing Officer Frahm's story to my attention).
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.