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I remember being in third grade and my teacher askin' everyone in the class 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'" recalls Jeff Carson with a smile. "I said, 'I want to be a policeman!' Even though I didn't know any policemen, I just had a respect for them."
He still does. So much so that after high school the Arkansas native seriously considered law enforcement as a career - until music ultimately pulled him in another direction.
These days, Jeff finds himself firmly planted in both worlds. Recently the singer of 1995's smashes "Not On Your Love" and "The Car" made a comeback with the Top 20 hit "Real Life," and now he's giving something back as the spokesperson for the National Association of Slain Officers (NASO). He was selected by the organization - which supports the survivors of police personnel killed in the line of duty - because of his lifelong passion for law enforcement.
It's a position Jeff is honored to hold - especially since Sept. 11.
"I was invited to Ground Zero," declares Jeff quietly of his recent visit. "I was in a procession of about 1,000 police cars from all over the country that converged in New Jersey and went right down to Ground Zero.
"The one thing I thought as I looked up at all the buildings that are still standing was, 'These are taller than anything we have in Nashville.' But yet you look at a postcard or picture, in size comparison to the World Trade Center, they're so minuscule. And that's when the reality hit me, just how huge these two buildings were."
As overwhelming as that sight was, Jeff's visit wasn't about the buildings. It was about the people.
"It was quite touching," says Jeff. "We talked to firemen and policemen there. It was a very awesome and humbling honor to shake hands with workers at the site. These men and women are obviously tired and working against tremendous physical challenges, but their attitude is the most dedicated and determined you can imagine. They truly are American heroes."
Jeff sang "God Bless America" at a special ceremony and attended a memorial service at New York's Sacred Heart Cathedral for the 37 officers who were killed. He also performed for the police associations in a Newark airport hangar.
"It was a moving, moving week," declares Jeff solemnly.
In his role as NASO spokesperson, Jeff is doing public service announcements and participating in events that raise funds and awareness of the cause.
"I've always thought firemen and police officers didn't get the respect they deserved," declares Jeff. "So I'm glad to try to change that, particularly since Sept. 11."
- David Scarlett