Thirteen years ago, on September 11, 2001, our nation was attacked in a cold and cowardly manner. In New York City, at 8:45 a.m., the first highjacked plane slammed into the World Trade Center North Tower. Shortly after, at 9:03 a.m., in a blur viewed by millions on live television, the second plane sliced through the South Tower.
By the end of that morning over three thousand people would perish in the collapse of both towers, including 343 members of the FDNY and seventy-three police officers and rescue workers from New York City. As a nation, we must never forget the events and sacrifices made that day.
In the immediate days and months after the attack, we came together as a country to support the initial rescue attempts. We watched as the arduous task of recovering the remains of those that died continued. We learned about the personal lives of the civilians who were lost. We attended the myriad funerals of the heroes who worked their way up the stairs of those towers to save as many lives as possible. Many of us wondering if we could have found the same type of courage these brave first responders had showed.
The events of that day changed how we went about our daily lives. It also made us look differently at the women and men who serve as our nations first responders. Forcing many to realize a newfound respect for the sacrifices these people make as part of their daily job.
Thousands of firefighters, cops, construction workers and engineers worked the acrid pile of Ground Zero to recover the remains of those that perished, exposing themselves to a toxic mix of chemicals that would take a toll on their health and well being.
These men and women were our Domestic Veterans, they came together in our nations time of need, doing what had to be done. Their actions on that pile were a daily reminder for us that we will stand together as a nation.
But as with many things, time tends to erode our memory. The unconditional support showed to first responders by many elected officials in the days after 9/11 slowly faded to tactile praise.
But yet, when it came time to take care of them, as one after another came down with cancer, respiratory problems or other health related issues, our elected officials seemed to had forgotten that we, as a nation, have a responsibility to take care of their health needs.
It took ten years for Washington to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Safety Act that would give a measure of health care to those who worked Ground Zero. If not for the relentless behind the scenes work of Maine Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, that bill would have never passed the Senate on the last day of Congress in the winter of 2010. Just as we take care of our military veterans who have served our country, we must continue to take care of those that sacrificed for us on that September morning in 2001.
Our nation has been shaped by historic and sometimes tragic events like Pearl Harbor and 9/11. It is the responsibility of those that lived during those times to honor the sacrifice of the fallen, take care of those who served, and ensure that future generations will never forget.
Professional Fire Fighters of Maine