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We must remember, and remain prepared

The Millerton News Editorial

This week, on Friday, in the year 2020, we remember September 11, 2001 — 19 years ago to the day. 

On that bright, clear September morning, 2,606 unsuspecting New Yorkers (and others) working in the World Trade Center — a quintessential Manhattan skyscraper in America’s quintessential city, in its quintessential financial district — was hit by terrorists bent on destruction. 

On that fatal morning, 19 hijackers commandeered four planes and proceeded to kill not only themselves, but 2,997 others, and injure 6,000 more. There were 265 people who died aboard those aircraft, including the terrorists; 2,606 who died in the Twin Towers and its environs; and 125 who were killed at the Pentagon. It was a day filled with unimaginable tragedy.

Now, as we approach next year’s 20th anniversary of the most deadly terror attack ever on American soil, we’ve been dealing with a brand new catastrophe: the coronavirus pandemic, which is killing legions more people with deadly viral particles. But the 896,086-plus deaths counted thus far across the globe, and the 27,465,135 confirmed cases in 213 countries and territories as of Monday, Sept. 7, doesn’t diminish the lives lost on 9-11.

That day we, as Americans, were shaken to our core. It was our emergency workers, then, as it is today with this global health crisis, who responded. Of the nearly 3,000 who were killed when the Twin Towers were struck, 412 were emergency workers who ran directly into the line of fire to respond, including 343 New York City Fire Department (FDNY) firefighters (including a chaplain and two paramedics from the department).

A 2018 report from the medical director of the World Trade Center Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital stated that out of the roughly 10,000 first responders and others at Ground Zero who have developed cancer as a result of their heroic actions, “more than 2,000 have died due to 9-11 related illnesses.”

The Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) estimates that roughly 1 in 8 firefighters who went through the rubble where the Twin Towers fell have since come down with cancer.

In July of 2019, President Trump rightly signed a law to permanently extend aid to first responders who fell ill after working at Ground Zero following the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, ensuring compensation for victims through 2090.

Now, though, first responders in New York City, the very place they helped out following 9-11 and have been helping again in our current crisis, are now at risk of losing their livelihoods, thanks to the gargantuan, but unforeseen, budget shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

New York State itself is facing about a $14 billion deficit due to COVID-19, with a $1 billion loss affecting New York City. That’s why city Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering laying off first responders, including 400 EMTs, paramedics and fire inspectors with the FDNY. He’s hoping — as are we — the federal government will provide critical stimulus funding for the state and the city, or that state lawmakers will allow the city to take out a loan so the firings won’t be necessary. But if there’s no relief, 22,000 city jobs will probably be cut on Oct. 1.

And in the era of COVID-19, first responders are needed now more than ever — especially in NYC — once the virus’ epicenter. We can’t allow ourselves to slack off, even though our state leaders have done an incredible job bringing New York back to health, driving infection numbers down low. 

On Friday, Sept. 4, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave an update via email.

“The total number of hospitalizations remains low,” he stated. “Yesterday, there were 428 total hospitalizations. Of the 93,395 tests reported yesterday, 864, or 0.92%, were positive. Sadly, we lost five New Yorkers to the virus.”

There is still work to be done to keep everyone safe, to keep everyone healthy. Whether it be battling the coronavirus or terrorists, locally or globally, we must always remain vigilant. We need to continue to support those who can support us on the home front and abroad, be it our military, our police, our firefighters, our EMTs, any and all of our health care workers and our front line workers — they’re all essential at times like these — when we’re fighting for our health and our safety. And as we’ve hopefully learned since that bright, clear September morning 19 years ago in Lower Manhattan, and as we were again reminded this March in Wuhan, China, times like these can happen at any moment.

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