Outraged response on behalf of first responders: remembering Ground Zero’s forgotten heroes

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By Robyn Belt

As America approached the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I recognized just how powerful Facebook can be.

In our technical world, it is not only the dispersal of information that is rapid, but our ideas as well. As our nation struggled through the sensitive remembrance of 9/11, emotions ran tense on the social networking site as several Facebook friends reposted an identical status in an act of outrage and solidarity.

“Due to lack of room, NYC Police Officers, Port Authority Police Officers and FDNY Firefighters are not invited to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at Ground Zero. Funny —they weren’t invited on that day in 2001, either— they just showed up and became our heroes. Please re-post if you think they belong MORE than the politicians who are invited,” the post read.

Intrigued and undoubtedly a bit outraged myself, I tried to remain objective while evaluating the controversial decision to omit first responders from the main memorial service. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City made this decision based on a lack of space at Ground Zero and a need to include politicians and victims in the memorial tributes.

The fact remains: nearly 3,000 first responders, who dedicated their health and heart to the city of New York on 9/11, will be excluded from a service that pays tribute to the suffering that united Americans 10 years ago. The outrage is both justified and necessary.

The controversy surrounding the lack of gratitude to first responders in the NYPD has long been discussed in the media, mostly in regards to the lack of medical compensation and pension for those who sustained illness at the site of Ground Zero.

Exposed to toxic carcinogens and high levels of hazardous inhalants for weeks on end, several responders have been diagnosed with terminal cancers and radiation poisoning that has cost them both health and profession. In lieu of these after-effects, the need to include our servicemen and women is all the more inherent. If heroism is defined by selflessness and an overarching need to defend the innocent, then the 9/11 first responders are the Supermen and Wonder Women of our modern age.

Is our political system ungrateful for these heroes? Hardly. However, I do feel that a greater emphasis has been placed on the political front as politicians received an invitation before those who were so essential to the security of our nation.

In a “who’s who” and “who stands for what” realm of partisan politics, the memorial service would better serve Americans to honor the citizens and first responders whose lives were shattered by the events of 9/11. After all, the devastation of 9/11 was not limited to the inner chambers of Senate or Congress; the ramifications of that day will forever reside in the heart of the American people. There are not 3,000 American senators or members of Congress, but there are 3,000 heroes who shouldered a responsibility so great because it was simply “asked” of them.

The beauty of our political system has allowed me and my Facebook friends to express our contempt at the exclusion of first responders from the main Ground Zero tribute. It is my hope that with true American spirit, we can grieve as a nation for the lives lost 10 years ago and continue to raise our voice in order to pay proper tribute to the heroes born on that day.

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