Millions of Americans question what happened that day. Did our Government know what was going to happen? Worse yet--- did they have an active part in what happened? Sadly, the 9/11 Commission did little to resolve these agonizing questions. One cannot write an article on 9/11 first responder illnesses without pointing a blood-stained finger at the EPA and the Bush Administration which gave a green light to breathe the toxic air shortly afterwards. Indeed, members of the Bush Administation and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman should all be tried for manslaughter. Nevertheless, these are questions and issues which will not be resolved any time soon. In the meantime--- our 9/11 heroes are sick and dying and need help NOW.
Fast-forward to 2008 --- The United States is still spending more on defense than all other countries in the world combined. The Department of Homeland Security, created in 2003 as a response to the September 11th attacks, has a budget this year of $46 BILLION. How much of that is going to cover the medical bills of our first responders? Rather than aid the true figures of freedom and bravery, millions in DHS funds go towards the maintenance of a color-coded threat barometer, airport water bottle screeners, and the enforcement of the unconstitutional and grossly misnamed Patriot Act. Is this what the men and women who died on 9/11 would have wanted as a response to their deaths?
I bring up the disgusting allocation of our tax dollars as a contrast to the generosity of the American spirit in the hopes that I can again stir up the feeling of philanthropy that moved us in the beginning of this nightmare. Seven years later, so many first responders still need our help. There were an estimated 40,000 rescue and clean-up workers at the World Trade Center and seven out of ten of those are battling respiratory illnesses. Some estimates say that more people will die post-9/11 from illnesses sustained during the clean-up than died on the actual day of the attacks. Sadly, it's mostly just lip service that's given to our heroes of 9/11, and come September 12th, the rest of the country will move back to business as usual and our heroes will go back to struggling to survive another day.
So what next? I'm calling for a national declaration of September as First Responders Month, with all 30 days used to educate Americans on the plight of our heroes and how we can help relieve their suffering. I'm also calling on the generous people of this country to step forward and help. In this economy, times are hard for us all, no doubt, but I'm willing to bet you were able to read all these words without coughing even once. You thought nothing of breathing in and breathing out, it was involuntary and went unnoticed. You're probably not deciding which of life's necessities you have to go without this month in order to fill your life-saving prescriptions. With this perspective in mind, I encourage you to donate to the FealGood Foundation, a non-profit organization that spreads awareness and educates the public about the catastrophic health effects on 9/11 first responders. The FealGood Foundation also provides assistance to relieve these great heroes of the financial burdens placed on them over the last seven years. You can donate online at www.fealgoodfoundation.com, or by mailing a check or money order to The FealGood Foundation, 144 Shenandoah Blvd., Nesconset, New York 11767.
This year, of course I hope you stop and remember how you felt on September 11th, 2001. Then, I hope you take that feeling forward and convert it to action. Remember those that died, and remember the ones still living who need our support. Let this not be another empty anniversary, let it be one of action and compassion.