New York City's police officers were praised as heroes for running into the "fires of hell" to rescue survivors after the 9/11 attacks, but they are "being vilified today," Rep. Pete King said Friday.
"Just think on that day, where there was so much sadness, so much despair," the New York Republican said on Fox News' "America's Newsroom" during an interview from Ground Zero. "If we had seen cops and firefighters running away, or not going in, or ducking for cover, but no, they went into the fires of hell. So we should always, always be grateful for them and keep that in mind today. These are the true heroes."
King said being at the site of the attacks Friday "brings back memories of the saddest day, the most tragic day in American history, but also the most uplifting and heroic, considering how all the cops and firefighters were the true heroes and fought back and inspired the whole country."
The lawmaker has been in Congress since 1993 and recalled being at Ground Zero when President George W. Bush made his historic address just three days after the attacks.
"I was across the street," said King. "We couldn't hear exactly what he said, but we heard the tremendous ovation from the crowd and then the president came over and asked us how he did. Great, only because we were basing it on the ovation."
He said he saw the speech "all over television," and that the firefighter Bush was standing with has since become a good friend to him and his wife.
"(He is) a true patriot," said King. "The president couldn't have picked a better person to stand with."
But the country has become more divided since then, King said, and he wishes for a return to "September 11, September 12, when the country was unified and we saw what was good about the country and why it was worth fighting for and why we never have to back down."
Now, people think it's heroic to attack police officers, he added.
"We have leaders in government encouraging them for looking the other way or enabling them," said King. "We have to find a way to re-instill that American spirit of unity and love for the country and whatever faults we have we are the greatest country in the world."
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