“Where were you when you saw the planes hit the World Trade Center Towers?”
It’s a question that everyone asks about and it’s answered with the same discomfort that you get when asking a military veteran, “What did you do in the War?” Some of us were at work that day, others were taking care of the homes or working in offices, just like the ones in New York City. For Jon Stewart, a comedian and host of the popular political “Daily Show”, he was trying to decide whether or not to crawl under his desk and cry and would anyone really pay him to do that?
I remember that week well. I was conducting a NY State Inspection on a vehicle at Goodyear Automotive on Niagara Falls Blvd and Military Road when the boss told us to put down what we were doing and come into the customer wait room, where we all stood around the TV and watched the events of September 11th unfold.
That month, I watched my girlfriend’s father leave for Saudi Arabia to help with the Refueling Wing of the Air Force and many of my friends and co-workers get called back to duty in the service and those who were first responders get called to Ground Zero in Manhattan to begin the cleanup of the World Trade Center buildings and the remains of the bodies.
The emotional toll that it took on everyone was the grim reminder of the war that most people deal with in their daily struggles around the world and what we dealt with as a Nation getting out of Vietnam and Cambodia. We began another military buildup of arms and deployment of troops to fight what we thought would be a quick and decisive war. As it turned out, we spent 15 years fighting in a long struggle in the Middle East that we aren’t completely out of yet.
There was no reason why we let this happen on such a grand scale. Our intelligence knew that preventative measures needed to be in place to prevent hijackers from gaining access to our aircraft and using them as missiles to do the most damage to America. Hijackers were desperate in the 1980s to escape the Soviet Union and the Middle East and would often highjack an airplane, holding the passengers as hostages.
This was a preferable scenario of desperate men to coordinated attacks of terrorism. So, it should not have come to surprise to anyone in America that this was coming, as attacks by the Soviet Union on Afghanistan ramped up and people in the Middle East looked for ways to get the United States involved in ways that would actively pit the United States against Russia beyond a Cold War. It was a calculated move by Al-Qaeda to put our troops into a position where a conflict between Russia and the USA were seen as inevitable the same way that we got involved with an ideological struggle between China and Korea.
So, as my friends and family came home from Ground Zero as first responders, they were treated the same way as those returning from the Middle East, some with PTSD, some being able to walk or breathe ever again. They were met with the same treatment from our government that promised them that they’d be supported unquestioningly with equipment and medical treatment at the hospitals. They were put on waiting lists where some of them perished from chemicals they were exposed to and some of them took their own lives because of the trauma they’d experienced. Memories are short and people forget that President Obama attempted to get veterans bills and healthcare reforms passed to help first responders past Congress and was blocked many times, although several measures were passed during his Presidency including an increase in the VA budget to recruit more mental health professionals, expand Veterans Centers in Rural areas of the country, assure a budget and fully fund the VA resources, expand programs for Veterans with housing vouchers for the homeless and provide a services program to prevent homelessness. He also fought to prevent discrimination in the Armed Services against military reservists.
We’re being hit daily with misinformation, gaslighting from our administration on what is actually going on with our government with sleight of hand gestures and people spreading fake news, alternative facts and outright lies. For example, there has been a program around since 2014 called CHOICE that is supposed to let Veterans get medical treatment at any private care facility rather than having to wait for the VA. It was passed by the Obama Administration and Congress as the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, yet President Trump announced in October 2018 that he was signing into law the creation of this law called the “VA Mission Act” by taking the existing CHOICE program and folding a variety of community care programs into the VA. In the meantime, the bill to provide 9/11 First Responders was scheduled to run out and the Congressional House Judiciary Committee couldn’t even bother to show up to its scheduled hearing about extending the funds to those who lost their health due to the cleanup?
When is enough? When do we get back our “Government of the People” that does the work of the people, elected by the people FOR the people?
Thankfully, Congress decided to show up the next day and do their jobs and pass the bill to extend coverage to the 9/11 first responders, suffering from ailments, but honestly, did it have to be so hard to show compassion in the United States that people with Cancer have to make the trip to DC just to plead for funds to ease their pain and suffering?