Ten Steps Forward, Eleven Steps Back.

Travesty by Travis Williamson

While this news may not exactly come as brand new to anyone and while this article may be dated by the initial revelation, my utter disbelief that this is being allowed to happen prevents me from withholding my opinions on the matter. On Sunday September 11th, 2011, the city of New York will be holding a ceremony to honor the victims of the attacks that day, ten years ago. On that morning, NYPD and NYFD first responders rushed to the scene of the world trade center to ensure the safety of the American people and risked their lives to save countless innocent lives. To this day, many of the first responders experience adverse health effects related to their service that day and exposure to the airborne dust and debris that was nothing short of toxic.

According to a New York Daily News article published in November of last year, the death toll of Ground Zero first responders and workers is nearing one thousand. That is nearly a third the amount of the number of the 2977 victims killed in the terror plots. Not only are many of the deaths due to severe respiratory problems, but many others have developed cancer, which is believed to be due to exposure to toxins present at the ground zero site. While the horrors of that day still echo through the past to the present, and while many people will always carry the burden of loss of loved ones with them, it is overlooked that, for many of the service men and women, the prospect of death relating to September 11th is still a very harsh reality ten years later.

In July of this year, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released a report stating that the first responders suffering from medical ailments would not be eligible to receive federal aid for 9/11 victims due to insufficient evidence linking the attacks to the diseases.

Despite all of the sacrifice, all of lasting disease and death, the neglect on the part of the NIOSH, and everything the members of the police and fire department do to keep the people of the city safe, the 9/11 first responders are to be excluded from the ceremony. Mayor Bloomberg has said that the focus of the ceremony was to accommodate the families of the victims of the attacks. I have the utmost respect and understanding for that, I really do, but to claim that there is no place for these service men and women is just simply a travesty. To add insult to injury, literally, Bloomberg added that there would be another ceremony on a different date for the first responders.

The heroes, in every sense of the word, our heroes, are being denied their rightful place at the service. This should be a crime, because these people have been robbed of their opportunity to pay their tribute and respect to not only the citizens who lost their lives, but also to their fellow service members who laid down their lives that day in the hope that they could save the lives of the innocent people from the of clutches of terror. I suppose that is just not enough though. It looks like some people just feel like politicians should be filling those seats instead.

Maybe I'm wrong, or maybe I'm just naive, but to me it seems like the message of 9/11 is remembering who we are as a nation, as a country, and as a people. Remembering that at the end of the day, our differences in opinion, aspirations, beliefs, and convictions unite us more than any likeness ever could. To me, this whole issue just seems like such a disgraceful step backwards. As much as I do, and always will love my country, it's hard to articulate the phrase, "proud to be an American" when the very best of us, those who stood out as a shining beacon of the best elements of humanity on that tragic day in American history, are shoved aside and moved to a different ceremony, on a different day.

I feel as though it always should be remembered, that on the day when our lives changed forever, the men and women that are being excluded now were not found doing their jobs on a different day. That they were not at different emergencies. That they were not going to respond at a later date. That they found the room. They found room in their hearts and souls to risk everything so that our future may shine as bright as their courage and resolve did that day. Please, never forget that.

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