To Serve or Protect?

They seemed awfully young, they were wearing dress uniforms, and they didn’t have guns. They looked alert, scanning the throngs of busy commuters quietly and methodically. I thought they might be a symbolic sort of protection, not unlike the unarmed National Guardsmen that are stationed at Grand Central and Penn Station. Or maybe it was part of their training, the way NYPD rookies are now sent into the worst precincts right out of the Academy. Was Atlantic Av Station on high alert now? Whatever the reason, they became part of my daily commute.

One day, one of them made eye contact with me. I felt I was being checked out. Did I look suspicious? I wasn’t offended, just curious as to why I had merited any attention. For some reason, the moment stayed in my mind.

On Saturday, I saw them again — differently. They had pamphlets, brochures. They were speaking to young men. They were recruiting.

(Atlantic Av Station, Brooklyn)