September 11 is never an easy day for my family, although we have made it a day to celebrate my mom, Judy Larocque – not the final 42 minutes of her life, but the first 50 years, 10 months and 16 days.
Mom was an optimist — being a lifelong Red Sox fan does that to you. She started her own company and achieved success through hard work and a relentless determination to move forward in the face of adversity. She instilled these values in my sister and me as young children. She taught us to solve problems by acknowledging them and doing the hard work. I have never known another way to live.
After her murder, I collaborated with other 9/11 families to insist that our government investigate why she and so many others were killed, and determine how we could prevent such tragedies in the future. Having had no experience in politics, I was shocked when government officials resisted our call for accountability. From members of Congress hiding behind their doors to avoid meeting with us (apparently they did not know we could hear them breathing), to an administration that insisted we needed to look forward, not back, our frequent trips to Washington never failed to amaze me.
Many might forget the Herculean task that was the creation of the 9/11 Commission, but those involved know it never would have happened without engaged American citizens who insisted that their government do the right but difficult thing: to take a hard look at what went wrong in order to institute change. We refused to allow obstructionist politicians from either party to stop us from doing all we could to protect our fellow Americans. We were the first to protest (albeit silently, outside the 2004 White House holiday party), in an ultimately successful effort to convince Congress to hold a vote on the implementation of many 9/11 Commission recommendations.
Mom’s lessons served me well in the years I spent advocating for improvements to the nation’s security. But I have seen my mom’s murder turned into a political issue, watching politicians on both sides of the aisle use it to further their divisive goals, whether by invoking 9/11 images at political party conventions or demonizing victims’ families who dare to speak out.
Sadly, the problem has only gotten worse. With all of the country’s problems, I am disheartened when I see people commandeer important national conversations to focus on wedge issues that, while important to some, are not the most critical issues our country desperately needs to address: health care, the national debt and entitlements. As I see it, the will to work together to solve these problems is sadly lacking among our political leaders.
We need real leadership in these times, and on this anniversary we should all understand how critical it is. As another 9/11 comes and goes, I can’t help but hope everyone, elected officials and the electorate alike, will come together as Americans, remember what is at stake, and decide that together we owe each other the hard work and focus on our collective goals.