Friday, August 26, 2011


In the early morning hours of September 12, 2001, Ground Zero looked like a war zone. The towers were gone, the surrounding buildings burnt out and destroyed, and smoke and ash were everywhere. Fires lit the darkness in recesses where debris and rubble had ignited.

Stunned by the death and devastation on this battlefield, turned hallowed ground, an NYPD sergeant and detective stood there, scanning the site. Suddenly, something caught their eye: an American flag.

It was wrapped around a contorted street light, not far from the plaza of the World Trade Center where it had flown proudly the day before. Tattered and torn, this American flag had survived the worst terror attack in world history.

As the sergeant stared at the flag, he realized it was upside down...the international signal for distress. His blood boiled at the thought. Our city and country had been hit and hit hard, but we were not in distress. Our country had been hurt and hurt bad, but we would survive.

With the help of firemen and military personnel nearby, they retrieved the flag. Carefully, as they had been taught, the soldiers folded it, and handed it to my men. Then standing in silence, they saluted that flag.

I knew nothing of this until hours later that morning when I walked into my office. I was hit by a strong smell of smoke. When I looked around to see why, I noticed a folded flag sitting on the corner of my desk. There was a note with it that read:

“Boss... this is the flag that flew in front of the WTC at Church Street. It was blown off the pole and was tangled on the street light. We as well as some firefighters and soldiers recovered it. The soldiers folded it. In Israel, you said that we can't back down to terrorism. You are right. You lead, and we will follow."

I was overcome by their words, but more so at the sight of the flag sitting there. Less than 24 hours ago, this incredible symbol of freedom and democracy had flown proudly in front of two of the largest buildings in the world. On a clear, blue sky morning, those buildings and thousands working inside them were attacked and destroyed by an enemy who despised the very freedoms that flag represented.

I thought of its history, and the men and women who had fought for, and died, defending it. I thought of the first responders who gave their lives the day before while serving the people of New York City.

Now sitting silent and still on my desk, that flag's symbolism seemed more powerful and mighty than ever. It inspired the men who retrieved it, me, and every person who walked into my office. Some people kissed it. Some touched it. Others simply stared at it or nodded in respect.

This symbol of our country's birth and resilience, once again, as in past battles, inspired, moved and strengthened our resolve. It brought our political leaders together and created unity in our country. All across America, flags heralded this truth: Good will prevail over evil.

Today, in these truly trying times, I think back to those moments and that flag.

In recent days, we have suffered a tremendous loss of 30 of this nation's greatest warriors, and we have witnessed historic economic setbacks and political polarization. Gloom and doom permeates our headlines and airwaves. This is not a time to provoke fear or lose confidence in our nation's resilience and spirit. This is not a time for pessimism, or throwing in the towel, or writing us off as a second rate nation.

This is not the time to give in or give up!!!

This is a time for unity, optimism, and national support for our country and that flag. It is a time for a call to action...just as in the aftermath of the attacks on our country. It is a time we must stand together, as one nation, under God and indivisible. Most important, it is a time to reflect and learn from that flag…learn from the men and women who died, fighting for and defending it, and from the strength of the families they left behind. May we learn from the flag that was ripped from its stand, but whose spirit and symbolism could not be destroyed.

In these trying times and when we need it most, stand up and honor that flag with the strength, unity, courage and conviction that it has symbolized for us for more than 230 years. We owe it to our children, and their children, as well. Most important, we owe it to that flag and the country it represents.

God Bless the USA.

Bernard B. Kerik

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

This is a Time for Unity - Not Politics

The past 72 hours have been saturated with the news of the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden. I, for one, could not be happier.

Yet, what should be a time of pride, praise and unity for the entire country has quickly become a soap box for many of President Barack Obama's critics. They have tried their best to find fault in every decision and move he has made, right down to nit-picking, word for word, the announcement of Bin Laden's death.

If the president left office in 2012 or 2016, and Bin Laden had not yet been captured or killed, it would surely be labeled his fault. Why can't he now get the credit he is due?

By all accounts, it was the President who decided and ordered the high-risk ground assault versus a less risky aerial strike on the terrorists' compound. A near-flawless operation resulted.

But that is not enough for Obama's critics. Should we have captured or killed Bin Laden? Disposed of the body or not? What did the president know and when?

Let me ask this: Who really cares?

If the operation had failed, if there were U.S. casualties, if Bin Laden had gotten away, then the President's critics could rightfully have a field day, but this entire operation was methodical, well-executed, and close to miraculous... without one U.S. casualty.

To my fellow Republicans and conservatives I say: Stop whining and give the President the credit he deserves. A better outcome happens only in the movies.

And as for those who believe killing Bin Laden may incite Al-Qaeda and their followers, remember they are already filled with anger and hatred against us. Let's not forget that on September 11, 2001, we were inciting no one and yet suffered the worst terror attack in world history. As for the burial at sea, I personally believe it was ingenious. I was in Iraq when Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed. I recall the many issues we had to deal with then. I also recall the problems with the bodies of Saddam Hussein and Abu Masab Al-Zarkowi, Iraq's leading terrorist whose body was returned to his hometown of Zarka, Jordan.

For Bin Laden, there will be no shrines and no martyrdom rallying points.

There are times for politics and debates and there are not. This is a time for unity and honor. Save the negativity for another time.

For the families and friends of those who perished on 9/11, for the first responders who came to the rescue - 400 who died doing their job - for our men and women in the Armed Forces who for the past 10 years have been fighting this global war on terror, and for the heroes in the U.S. Navy Seals who pulled off one of the greatest missions in our country's history, let us put politics aside.

Let us thank God that good has prevailed over evil and that President Barack Obama made the decisions he did.

On September 14, 2001, President George W. Bush came to Ground Zero, shook my hand and told me that America would bring those to justice that were responsible for the attacks on our country. Tomorrow, President Barack Obama will go to Ground Zero to remind the world that America has kept its promise. I, for one, will never forget him and this momentous event just as I will never forget those we lost.


Monday, May 2, 2011

A Great Day to be an American

As one who stood beneath the building and watched the second aircraft slam through Tower II of the World Trade Center, and was there when it collapsed, hearing President Barack Obama announce to the world that Osama Bin Ladin was dead, was joyous, emotional and overwhelming. God Bless our president, the intelligence and special operations personnel that carried out this mission, and God Bless America. -BERNARD B. KERIK