18 December 2010

Speaking as a First Responder aka: PASS THE BILL

I had hoped my first post after so long an absence would be one that was lighthearted or some amusing anecdotes about the certifiable folks in my family. Alas, it was not meant to be. Although at some point there will undoubtedly be stories about my trip to California to bury my Pops, today is not the day. Instead I am having my Howard Beale moment. I am mad as hell and I am not going to remain quiet about what has provoked my ire: Our Senate.

I devoted many years of my life to being a 'first responder' most of which I did behind the comfort of a desk and radio, though not all. I was an EMT 1A and a volunteer firefighter and actually went out on a few calls when absolutely necessary. Working a flood in 1986, I got "Nearer my God to Thee" sick from sitting around in wet, contaminated clothes after walking through fetid water. Rescue work does not come with set hours. In a state of emergency you do what you must and keep going until your body stops. I remember taking a break and we "shopped" for food for rescue workers using a canoe; navigating the aisle of the local grocery store for canned items above the water line. I much preferred sitting in a warm, dry radio room telling people where to go and what to do when they got there. I was and remain fairly accomplished at doing so. Right now I want to tell our senate how to act regarding H.R.847 - James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010.

First responders know that they are entering a hazardous occupation. There is risk involved, that's part of the reason they enjoy their work. I will include myself when I say we like the adrenaline rush. If you didn't, you wouldn't do the job. While I was out sick for nearly two weeks, my body racked with fever and mysterious blotches over my skin, I was paid by the county that employed me. Had my illness left me permanently impaired, I would have qualified for workman's compensation. The events of 9/11 have been called an act of terrorism and war against the United States. The New York first responders who were able to respond were there immediately. First responders across the nation gave up their time and flocked to New York to help as soon as they could get there. Civilians responding to what was an act of war should have more consideration than being called heroes. They should be given more than lip service respect. They should be given the medical treatment they need for injuries sustained while working in the most horrific environment I can think of... breathing in toxins and the 'cremains' of those whose lives were lost during the attack of 9/11.

Shame on the Democrats for holding on to this bill for so long and then trying a last minute maneuver to get it passed. Why? To try and look good or to try and make Republicans look bad? You held the senate before this, if it was really important to you all, you would have gotten it done before now. Shame on the Republicans for worrying more about tax loopholes than taking care of those who willingly went into harms way. Shame on the President for not having made a statement of support. Do you not support this bill, President Obama? You supported bailouts for bad businesses but not bailing out our heroes? Or is just an honorary title that comes cheaply? And finally shame on me. That's right, shame on me for assuming that the men and women who gave so much to their country would be provided for at least as well as I was when I was a first responder.

Of all the lame-brained ways my government has come up with to spend tax money, this is one I can get behind. Sure, I am biased. I admit it. Even so, you have to admit that if this catastrophe had happened in another part of the world, the United States would be sending resources and funds by the millions to help them. It's time to help our own. Pass the bill.

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