Craig: 9/11 homeland heroes 'viewed as homeland enemies'

George Hunter
The Detroit News

First responders were held in high esteem in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but 15 years later, law enforcement officials say the accolades have waned.

“What happened? Our homeland heroes of 9/11 in many segments of our community are viewed as homeland enemies,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig said during Friday’s 9-11 Memorial Service in Campus Martius downtown.

He cited as an example the NFL’s decision to not allow Dallas Cowboy players to wear stickers on their helmets honoring the five Dallas police officers who were gunned down in July by a sniper.

“I can say here in the city of Detroit we have a community that supports and reveres the Detroit Police Department,” Craig said. “Unfortunately, as I speak to my colleagues in other parts of the United States, that’s not always the case.”

U.S. Attorney for Michigan’s Eastern District Barbara McQuade said too many people today have a negative view of police officers.

“I know it’s become a tough time to be a police officer in America,” she said. “It’s wrong to stereotype any group, including police officers, based on the bad acts of a few.

“Every day there are 88,000 police departments in this country, with thousands of officers who do their jobs the right way, but that doesn’t make the news because it’s not controversial.”

Over the past few years there have been a number of high profile attacks on officers, including the sniper killing of five cops in Dallas. Recently, five men have been accused of posting threatening messages against Detroit police on social media.

Police also have been accused of attacks on citizens, from the beating of a Dearborn driver to fatal shootings of suspects in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Ferguson, Missouri; and Baltimore.

Fifteen years ago Sunday, nearly 3,000 people died in the coordinated terror attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Hijacked planes were flown into the World Trade Center towers, which eventually collapsed, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville.

Seventeen Michiganians died in the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil.

Friday’s service, ahead of what’s called Patriot Day, was attended by uniformed police and firefighters, along with a few dozen civilians. The ceremony started with a procession of fire trucks and other police and fire vehicles, led by three mounted Detroit police officers. During a moment of silence to remember those killed during the terrorist attacks, a Detroit fire official rang a bell three times.

Detroit resident Yolanda McCants, 60, said she attended Friday’s ceremony to support police and firefighters.

“They’re human,” she said. “It’s important that they know there are people out here who support them.”

Alexis Wiley, chief of staff for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, lauded the dedication every day of first responders.

“9/11 is an example of the courage we see right here in the city of Detroit every day,” she said. “When you rush into a fire; when (police) rush into a building — that’s courage.”

Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said people should remember the courage of New York first responders who ran into harm’s way as the Trade Center towers burned — but, he said, something should be done about the “hidden danger that affects firefighters, EMS technicians and police: Post-traumatic stress disorder.

“They have PTSD because of their constant exposure to death and destruction. It’s time to protect these great men and women who protect us.”

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN

Local remembrances

■Gov. Rick Snyder has asked that American flags be flown at half staff on Sunday, Patriot Day, to honor those whose lives were lost 15 years ago.

■Oakland County officials have draped a large American flag on the outside of the west wing of the Circuit Court building.

■The Michigan Fallen Heroes Memorial has scheduled a 7 p.m. Sunday ceremony at 1200 North Telegraph, Building 38E, Pontiac.

■A University of Michigan memorial will feature 2,977 American flags, one for each life lost. The display will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Diag, on UM’s Ann Arbor campus.

■White Chapel Memorial Park in Troy will have a 5K Patriots Race and unveil a War on Terror Memorial from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday.

■Service at Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park downtown, 4 p.m. Sunday. If bad weather, ceremony will be moved to First United Methodist Church across from the park.