If there was ever a doubt of the danger police officers, firefighters and other first responders face every single day, that doubt lessened Wednesday in Texas and vanished altogether Friday in Boston.
On Friday, an estimated 1,000 city, state and federal police officers searched the streets, homes and businesses of Watertown and Cambridge, hunting for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
This, after 26-year-old MIT officer Sean Collier allegedly was shot to death late Thursday by Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan in what witnesses called “a hail of bullets.”
As the city of Boston was locked down, these police officers took to the streets knowing that Tsarnaev was armed and willing to kill. That’s not just “on the job.”
That’s extraordinary courage.
It’s the same kind of courage we saw in Texas after a massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. plant leveled buildings and injured as many as 160 people Wednesday evening. The number of dead and injured is not yet known, but as many as five volunteer firefighters who ran into the destruction to help are believed to have died.
That’s extraordinary courage.
It’s the same kind of courage we saw in New York on 9/11 and the same kind of courage we know exists in our cities and small towns every day when people are in need.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund honors the nation’s estimated 900,000 officers who “put their lives on the line for the safety and protection of others” every day.”
That’s not a cliché.
So far this year, 26 police officers have been killed in the line of duty, not including Collier.
The average age of these officers was 42, and the average tour of duty was 14 years and two months. These were dedicated, experienced officers who died to protect us.
In 2012, 120 police officers died on the job. In 2011, 176 died.
Over the past decade, 1,609 police officers have died on active duty.
Another 16,000 officers, on average, are injured on the job every year.
The death statistics for firefighters is not as grim, but firefighting is still considered one of the most dangerous and deadliest jobs in the country.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 19 firefighters have died on the job this year, not including the firefighters who died this week in Texas.
Last year, 83 firefighters died on the job in the U.S., including two firefighters who were shot to death in Webster, N.Y., in December by a sniper who lured them to his house before setting it on fire.
In the past decade, 1,028 have died while fighting fires or traveling to get to fires, all in the name of public safety.
Witnessing the carnage in Boston and Texas this week — one the result of a vicious planned attack and the other an industrial accident — has been difficult.
We have also witnessed acts of great compassion and caring by civilians and first responders alike, particularly in Boston as the bombings were broadcast live, and we have been warmed by the heartfelt gratitude of victims and their families.
But it is the courage that stands out.
The fearlessness that drives someone to run into a fire to help another.
The strength that compels an officer to walk in harm’s way to protect a city.
These professionals make great personal sacrifices to protect us every day.
So, thank you.
And keep up the good work. We depend on you.