On Sept. 11, 2001, we as a nation faced a tragedy unique in our history. And we promised each other to never forget – never forget those who lost their lives or those who put their lives on the line to save others.
The men and women in uniform who responded on 9/11 and the days that followed were police officers, paramedics, fire fighters and more. They were public service workers who never quit – when things were at their worst, they gave us their best. They worked around the clock to clear the rubble and search for survivors. Even after hope for survivors faded, they continued working, recovering the dead to return them to their loved ones. Many of these tireless workers were AFSCME members.
It took Congress a while – far too long – to live up to the promise we made on that day. For years, our lawmakers failed to offer these brave first responders the same unflinching commitment that we’ve always expected from their service to our communities. When many of them developed illnesses from their exposure to toxic dust and chemicals, we didn’t make it easy for them to get the medical help they needed. We weren’t immediately there for them the way they were for us.
As we commemorate the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, however, Congress has finally done the right thing. This year, thanks in part to pressure from AFSCME, Congress passed legislation that ensures permanent funding for first responders and other workers who became ill as a result of their exposure on 9/11. The new law covers first responders, workers injured by toxins during the rescue and clean-up efforts and survivors of the fallen heroes.
“When the unthinkable happened, AFSCME members did what AFSCME members do: they raced to the front lines; they put their communities first; they were at their best when things were at their worst,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said today on his Facebook page. “It’s not enough to say we’ll never forget. We can never abandon those who answered the call on 9/11. We can never walk away from those who never quit.”