Photo: NLEOMF.

Our country has spent the last decade trying to come to grips with what happened on 9/11/2001. And we are still grasping. It rocked us as a nation. And it shook the world.

There's not an American who was an adult or an adolescent at the time who can dispel the images of that day from his or her mind. There's not an American who was mature at the time who can't tell you where he or she was when the news broke. We all have our stories of shock and horror that day.

But none of those stories compare to the ones of the people who were actually there. Some of them went to work that day in Lower Manhattan and the Pentagon and boarded United Flight 93 without any worries beyond the normal aggravations of modern American life. Then before the day had ended, and for reasons that still don't make sense to many of us, nearly 3,000 of them were dead. And the first responders in law enforcement and public safety were fighting to keep many others alive. The efforts of these first responders are the reason that so many people survived an incident that could have easily killed thousands more.

We honor 9/11's law enforcement dead in this issue of POLICE. And the nation will be honoring the 9/11 dead, both civilian and public safety, for the next month or so. That's the way it should be. We should honor the Americans who died that day.

But I also think it's important to honor the first responders who lived through 9/11, who helped the victims, who combed the rubble, who saved lives and recovered bodies. I was dismayed to learn that New York City officials through the offices of Mayor Michael Bloomberg have decided to exclude first responders from the 9/11 memorial ceremonies later this month.

Now if you speak with the PR flaks in Bloomberg's office, they will tell you that the city is honoring its first responders. After all, they have a police color guard as part of the ceremony. And the first responders will be invited to watch the proceedings on giant TV screens in a park somewhere near the Ground Zero site. They say that's all they could do. Sources say there isn't enough room for first responders at the event.

Fair enough. But if space is at such a premium, I don't think every politician in the Tri-State Area should be invited, nor Mayor Bloomberg's cronies. And don't even get me started on celebrities. If those "Jersey Shore" idiots are in attendance, I will lead the march on the Hizzoner's office.

Maybe what the city of New York should have done is permit a certain number of first responders at the ceremony. Maybe the representatives of each public safety agency could have been chosen by vote of the men and women who responded that day. That wouldn't have required a lot more extra seats, and it would have shown the public safety personnel that the city remembered what they did on 9/11.

The point here is that you have to give a lot of thought to something like the 10-year anniversary of an event like 9/11 or you're going to bungle it. Which it appears is exactly what happened in New York City.

On one level, I am sympathetic to the folks in the Big Apple planning the memorial. Here at POLICE, we spent much of the last year trying to decide how we wanted to treat this milestone. We finally decided to focus on how law enforcement has changed since that fateful day and how agencies are preparing to respond to WMD terrorism.

But failing to acknowledge the true heroes of 9/11 is downright disrespectful and unpatriotic. So that's why this issue of POLICE Magazine is dedicated to the responders at the Pentagon, at the World Trade Center, and in Shanksville, Pa., where United Flight 93 crashed. It's also dedicated to the men and women who worked to recover bodies from the rubble and extinguish the fires. You are the heroes of 9/11.

Our cover this month shows an officer that we have identified as Sgt. Marty Duane of the Port Authority Police Department. Sgt. Duane survived 9/11 and is now retired. When we first bought the photo, there was no identifying information for the officer, so we posted the image on Facebook and asked for your help identifying this officer. The first response provided the only name we really needed: "Hero."

Thank you, Sgt. Duane, and all the men and women like you. Thank you for your service, your dedication, and your courage. You let the terrorists know that we were not defeated. They could shake us, but they could not break us. You gave us all hope on a very terrible day.