Among the iconic images of the September 11 tragedy, photographs of policemen and firefighters stand out – the first responders were entering the doomed World Trade Centre as most everyone else was filing out.
They embraced the danger of the moment, most going ultimately to their death, because the job requires it.
First-responders sign up for this risk, they accept it as part of their service.
Similarly, in the situation that has become known as simply “Ferguson,” Sergeant John Wall of the St. Louis County Police Department knew in the second week of August that the time had come to stand up and be counted.
Peaceful protests after the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer during a confrontation had devolved into rioting and looting.
A storep near the shooting site had been looted and burned.
Police had lobbed tear gas and shot rubber bullets to disperse crowds, presumably while real bullets flew in their direction.
The situation was fraught with danger.
But did Sgt Wall think twice about going into it? No.
“I volunteered,” he said, on a recent morning at a coffee shop.
“I volunteered; it was kind of ‘all hands on deck,’ so everybody had to work it at some time,” he said.
“I was fortunate enough to work it the entire time.”