As I stand in an office high above the streets, looking out the window on a beautiful sunlit day, I recall another beautiful September day, but in New York City. As I write this, the twelfth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are on my mind. On 11 September 2001, it was clear and sunny in New York City, and the temperature was about 20 degrees Centigrade. A beautiful day, with no indications of the approaching storm. As I look out my window, the deaths of two law enforcement officers come to mind, from among the sixty New York City and Port Authority Police, and the three-hundred forty three fire fighter deaths.
John O’Neill’s life and death offers us much inspiration. John was a career Special Agent in the FBI. He rose through the ranks to head of the FBI’s largest and arguably most important field office in New York City. When he retired from the FBI, he had the option of going fishing, and taking it easy, or taking the job as the head of security for the World Trade Center building complex. Not surprisingly, John took on the challenge. John was well known and well respected as an insightful and thoughtful man of action. Those descriptors don’t often go together. John’s life offers those of us who currently play roles in the national security field some guidance. He didn’t sit around the office and opine, with much academic discussion of issues. But he also had a well-earned good reputation as a capable planner and project manager, who could foresee issues and problems, discuss alternative resolutions and move forward to implement resolutions to the issues.
John didn’t shy away from controversy. He didn’t run from problems. In that, he inspires those of us who remain to carry on. John saw opportunities to do the best job possible to protect people from those who would do them harm. John saw opportunities to work to make his communities strong, and prosperous. He knew that prosperity, and better lives for his loved ones, and the members of his community, depended on his hard work. He gave his life toward that end.
My thoughts also turned to Leonard Hatton, an active duty FBI agent. Leonard was down the street from the World Trade Center when the first plane hit. Leonard was a trained bomb technician for the FBI, and he was trained to assess a situation well instead of just rushing in. But when he saw the second plane hit, he knew he needed to act. Without thinking of his own safety, Leonard traveled the several blocks between his location and the World Trade Center, and entered the buildings with firefighters. He worked hard and fast to help people evacuate the buildings. His work, along with that of the firefighters and police at the scene, saved thousands of lives. As it is, nearly three thousand people, from one hundred fifteen different nations died that day. Including Leonard Hatton. Including John O’Neill.
O’Neill and Hatton are two men whose stories should inspire us. Most of us are in the security-related field because we want to help other people. We want to make our communities better places. We want to make a difference. O’Neill and Hatton did so. They did what was right, without regard for their own safety. In death, they guide us and give us strength. They show us the way forward. The challenge for each of us, then, is to rededicate ourselves to this grand work for which we have raised our hands. People depend on us, whether they know our names or not. They trust us to help them. And we will not let them down. We will not let down the memory of O’Neill and Hatton.