It’s a little surreal to think that it has already been eight years since the events of September 11th. The coverage over the past couple of years has been quieter and quieter, as those sharp visceral memories have faded into sad remembrances of a horrible time in our history.
I was far from New York at the time, in my last year of vet school in California. My mother woke me up with a phone call, telling me to turn on the TV. We silently sat and watched the towers fall; both of us alone, husbands out of town. Then, because I didn’t know what else to do, I went to school. I was in an independent research rotation at the time, alone in an eerie lab glued to the radio, no one to talk to to process what I was hearing. I was so lonely and shocked that I talked to the religion peddling kids who came by the next day, and that I never do.
So many fallen. So many heroes emerged. And because it’s what I do here, I would like to acknowledge all who gave so much, including the amazing search and rescue dogs of September 11th.
For those who are interested, there is a book called Dog Heroes of September 11th, easily found on Amazon and, in my case, the library. It’s an arresting look into the world of urban search and rescue canines.
The picture above quite honestly brings me to tears. It’s hard to explain. The men and women who were there on that terrible day and those that followed are true, incredible, selfless heroes. There is no other word for it and I don’t in any way intend to minimize that by saying that despite this, the dogs are what really knock the breath out of me. An excerpt from the book:
“I said to Piper, ‘Go find.’ He would paw or whine, and then he would look up at me. And as soon as he put his nose to the ground, the firefighters were all over him. They were so crazed to find one of their brothers buried where Piper had indicated. That’s when I started feeling the deep depression they were feeling. There were 10 or 12 dogs on our search team. In all, Piper and his buddies found about 15 bodies.
They didn’t have the benefit of watching around the clock coverage on CNN. They had no idea what this war-torn landscape of bleak rubble represented. They just found themselves in its horrific midst, inhaling what I can only imagine to be nauseating, overwhelming smells, and without question did what they were asked and headed on in because that is what their handlers asked of them. I don’t know that I could have done the same. They went, they did what was asked, and some paid a tremendous price. Unlike the people present, many of whom still suffered respiratory illnesses after the fact, the dogs did not have protective masks.
I’m taking a moment to remember, and to marvel at this illustrative moment of the strength of the human-animal bond. Courage is not the sole property of humanity. My thoughts are with all of those personally affected by this day.
Edited to add: I found a great site on Twitter thanks to some RTs. If you would like to read some more stories of these incredible dogs, check out the Search Dog Foundation.