In the Line of Fire

04/23/2013 06:13 pm ET Updated Jun 23, 2013

In the early onset stages of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), flashbacks were a common occurrence in my daily life. They were a constant reminder of what I saw, what I heard and what I smelled. Any similar prop that presented itself caused the prompting of the distant memory to become the reality of the day. The past merged with the present and my mind became a tangled web of misunderstood messages and thoughts.  

Over these many years since September 11, the flashbacks have decreased. Now their arrival is usually beset by some incident that resembles the carnage viewed on 9/11 at the Flight 93 crash site. These remembrances result because I am drawn to a story viewed on television or heard in the daily occurrences of life. One such incident took place this past week as I watched the tragic events at the Boston Marathon unfold. Like others, I was transfixed to the television and listened as every fact was presented by the newscasters. 

As I watched the video of the explosion replay time and time again and heard the screams of the injured, my mind became less focused on the violent act and more drawn to the reaction of the individuals in the crowd. 

What I saw was truly inspirational. Instead of running away from the epicenter of the incident, many ran toward the carnage that was now very visible to one and all. These first responders were not only those dressed in blue uniforms and wearing a badge -- or the insignia of the emergency medical services -- they were the everyday people participating in the once jubilant occasion of the marathon. They were the marathoners who had just triumphantly crossed over the finish line. They were the bystanders awaiting the arrival of a loved one. They were the volunteers who helped to organize the event. And they were the many faces who were once part of an enthusiastic crowd of on-lookers. Yet when they witnessed the tragic results of the terroristic acts, they did not give flight. Instead of fleeing the scene, they turned toward the danger and ran in the direction of the devastation to assist others. These amazing individuals moved in tandem with the police officers and other emergency responders who were there to render aid. In photo after photo published by the news agencies, there were innumerable people who displayed acts of heroism in response to the horrific events of the day. 

A hero is defined as a person noted for a courageous act. And courage it is said, is not the absence of fear, but rather, the judgment that something is more important than the fright felt. By placing themselves in harm's way, I view these brave men and women as heroes. For they committed selfless acts of valor and portrayed the traits of fidelity, bravery and integrity. 

In the years since 9/11, our country has watched as one violent act after another is perpetrated against humanity. And each time, we have witnessed the devastation to human life. But as we all suffer from the effects of these tragedies, there are also positive themes that prevail time and again: the indomitable spirit of the citizenry of this country; the gentle hand of a stranger; and the willingness to reach down and uplift one another. With each tragic event, our nation has risen from the ashes because of fearless individuals like those who served at the Boston Marathon and in the days that followed.  

Although these amazing individuals do not wear a badge, nor have they sworn an oath to serve and protect, they have served as bravely as any law enforcement officer and earned a well-deserved badge of service for their courageous acts. As a former law enforcement professional, I praise those who chose to respond in the best interest of mankind. And give thanks for their willingness to place themselves in the line of fire.