Where were you on September 11, 2001? Do you remember what you were doing when you got the news that airplanes had hit the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and had landed in a field in Pennsylvania? I sure do. I was in in my second period class in high school. Freshman year (that makes me feel old). The principal came on the PA system just before the lunch break to avoid any rumors that would start from people hearing news as they scattered during the lunch hour. He explained what he currently knew. We turned on the television and watched the news coverage in horror.
Nearly 500 miles from my not-so-comfortable seat in class, others were watching in even greater horror as they hear the loud rumble of a low-flying plane and the sound of an explosion. The overwhelming and unrelenting sound of the frantic dispatcher trying to get help where it’s most needed, and where it is most dangerous to send people. It’s what we now call “ground zero.” As everybody ran out and away from the area, scared and terrified, people just as scared and terrified set aside those fears and feelings and ran in, knowing full-well that this may be the day that they give their lives.
And some of them did: 411 firefighters, EMS and law enforcement died in the collapse of the Towers. In no way do I degrade the loss of the other 2,000+ lives in those Towers or the other 2,500+ lives lost in total from those attacks. But (and this is a big but), those 411 individuals who chose to walk into that scene knowing exactly how dangerous it is deserve to be honored. Not only do those who died, but those who survived the initial collapse and who endured the long recovery effort should be honored. They were not invited 10 years ago, but they showed up to serve their community and fulfill their “calling.”
At this 10 year “anniversary” that is fast approaching, there is a ceremony that has been put together; however, there has been a rumbled, especially among the public safety crowd. The 9/11 first responders are not being invited. Here are some of the headlines: “9/11 First Responders are Being Excluded From 10th Anniversary Ceremonies,” “9/11 First Responders Left Out…,” “9/11 First Responders Snubbed…,” “9/11 First Responders Frown On Exclusion…”
As all of these articles note, President Obama will be there, former President Bush will be there, former Mayor Giuliani will be there, as will be the current Mayor of NYC, Michael Bloomberg. Mayor Bloomberg says that the ceremony is a time for those who lost family members to see the memorial, and not for the general public. He says there will be a separate ceremony at a later date for all of the responders. My biggest beef with this is that our coworkers are our family. Because of our crazy and demanding schedules, we often spend as much time, if not more, with our coworkers than with our own families. We eat meals with them, we see them on their good days, bad days, when they’re happy, when they’re sad. We spend their birthdays with them and holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. And, it’s not just the people in our station or those in our department that are our family. It’s the whole public safety arena that’s our family. If you don’t believe me, the next time you hear of a fire fighter or a paramedic or a police officer who has died, especially a LODD, you see how
many departments show up. The departments that show up will cross town, county and even state lines to show respect to their fallen family. So, the argument that this is for those who lost family members doesn’t fly with me, or a lot of others in public safety. (I will admit that before I got into public safety, I had no idea what this whole “family” or “brotherhood” was all about. It’s real. And it’s unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I am so thankful for it because I don’t know how we could do our job without it.)
Here is an article in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services about this very thing. It’s short but it gives a few very good points from paramedics who were actually there.
They weren’t invited 10 years ago and they’re not invited now. The next time they’re needed, they won’t be invited but I guarantee you, they’ll still show up and do their job while everyone else is running out.