CONGRESS SEEKS TO RAID ZADROGA ACT FUNDS
HYPOCRISY TRUMPS PRIORITIES
Detective James Zadroga
The Face of the Bill that bears his name and
Congress is determined to raid.
(September 29, 2012 – New York, NY) The commitment and focus was remarkably short lived. It did not take long before the federal, state and city governments all resorted to their typical methods of conducting business or, more accurately, not conducting business. The only people who never lost focus, commitment, determination and integrity were those who labored day in and day out, month after month, engaged in what for many had become a sacred obligation, a personal duty to be fulfilled.
The earliest of the missteps and errors in judgment could reasonably be attributed to the unprecedented nature of the challenges never before imagined let alone anticipated or planned for. It took several days after September 11th just to impose some logic and order to what were understandably frantic if not obsessive efforts of the Members Of Service (MOS) of FDNY and NYPD scouring the alien landscape searching for survivors, praying for signs of life. The maddeningly insistent bleating’s of hundreds of missing Fire Fighter location beacons from within the 16 acres of heaping wreckage became as so many monotonal disjointed voices pleading for salvation from within The Pile almost as a demonically twisted and bound to be futile game of hide and seek.
Once the realization that the continuing efforts would not be of a “rescue” nature but cruelly would now be a long, tedious often surreal “recovery” process, more order and structure brought a more methodical, systematic discipline to the efforts. The engineers, iron workers and small army of excavation, demolition, and debris removal contractors toiled in conjunction with those obligated to the recovery of human remains. The Pile became a 16 acre gridded crime scene where hand held GPS devices were as important as picks, shovels and buckets. The heat was intense as the towering wreckage smoldered and the ground itself cooked from unseen subterranean fires that would burn for months. The heat, dust and unmistakable scent of death and decay cast a hellish pall to the grisly tasks at hand. The atmosphere itself became an intrusive unneeded reminder of the primary purpose of those who carry that stench with them to this day and far too many who actually carry microscopic particulate matter in their lungs.
This is not about politics or money. It has nothing to do with special interests, activists or some disgruntled group with an axe to grind. It is about hypocrisy and politicians. It is about morality, responsibility and priorities. It is about simply doing the right thing and that appears to be an enormous challenge in today’s world, in the political and cultural climate of expediency, short memories, and sickeningly miscalculated priorities.
SEPTEMBER 12, 2001 ONWARD
There have been mistakes and missteps all along the way. There have been competing moneyed power brokers at odds with the City and State, and the Port Authority has shown, how far they have fallen since the tenure of Austin Tobin. There has been one miscalculation after another, one insensitive tone-deaf decision by one agency or another for over a decade. Some of these mistakes were, in the bigger scheme of issues, relatively trivial. However there have been enough obstacles and complications resulting from the inability of any agency involved to think through a decision factoring all the myriad variables, and arrive at a position from which action could be implemented with some sense of purpose if not urgency to fill a small library.
The litany of insensitive mishandled errors from the last decade have each individually strained the credibility of the powers that be at best; exposed their callous disregard and failure to do the people’s business. There is in our democracy, no matter how tattered and flimsy it has become, a set of social contracts that add cohesiveness to our increasingly complex society. Certainly there are long standing covenants between The City of New York, our citizenry and those who serve it. Perhaps it should not be surprising, although it has been, to witness the breakdown of one of the covenants that has allowed the men and women who serve our City a certain sense of security in that the City would, when push came to shove, have our backs. Those days and those in City Hall and Albany who had the character to honor that commitment have gone the way of the cobble-stoned streets and the subway token.
There is more than enough blame to go around. From day one, that infamous Tuesday morning in September 2001, the harbingers of the abandonment to come where floating across the smoldering sixteen acres that had been the World Trade Center. The most obvious failure was that our vast mufti-billion dollar budgeted National Security and Intelligence apparatus left us vulnerable in a way we could never have imagined. But that is another story.
As the sun set casting long oddly shaped shadows on the gruesome wreckage, the hellish tomb of what was arguably inappropriately designated “Ground Zero” (“The Pile” is more fitting), the Federal EPA confidentially claimed that there was no inherent hazard or undo respiratory risk associated with the environs of The Pile and the adjacent neighborhoods. From that point on we have observed miserably bungled episodes regarding the handling and processing of human remains, bitter arguments about what would become of The Pile or, The "Site"; what would be an appropriate memorial, would a museum of some sort be fitting and other questions that needed to be considered and answered in a timely respectful manner. Yet, all these mistakes pale in comparison to what has become of the lives of those who survived the carnage, those who worked the rescue/recovery efforts for months, as well as the residents who live in the surrounding neighborhood. Conflicting and contentious reports began to surface from physicians treating people who had been exposed to the dust and debris emanating from The Site.
As the medical evidence mounted and more and more people were falling victim to a wide and often uncommon variety of malignant diseases the government on the federal, state and city level began a campaign of denial. Rather than accept the increasing concerns of the medical community treating these men and women they chose to be stubbornly obstinate and ignore the reality that was emerging. Then the deaths began. Police Officers, Fire Fighters, Steel Workers, civilian survivors, and area residents were succumbing to aggressive cancers, typical and atypical, at an alarming rate. The valuable time wasted in the process of ignorant, belligerent denial cost lives and that is a fact.
By 2006 there was a name and a face, a real life story representative of the plight of so many. James Zadroga (1971 – January 5, 2006) was a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer who died of a respiratory disease that has been attributed to his participation in rescue and recovery operations in the rubble of the World Trade Center following the September 11 attacks. Zadroga was the first NYPD officer whose death was attributed to exposure to his contact with toxic chemicals at the attack site.
Zadroga had joined the New York City Police Department in 1992 and attained the rank of Detective. He was a healthy non-smoker and had no known history of asthma or other respiratory conditions before spending 450 hours participating in the recovery efforts at the 9/11 attack site. Weeks after his time at the World Trade Center site, Zadroga developed a persistent cough, and, as the months progressed, he developed shortness of breath and became unable to walk distances more than 100 feet without gasping for air.* Then-Governor of New York George Pataki signed legislation on August 14, 2006, to expand death benefits to Ground Zero workers who die from cancer or respiratory diseases, under the presumption that the cause was due to exposure during recovery efforts. Pataki mentioned Zadroga at the bill-signing ceremony, held at the World Trade Center site.**
THE FIGHT CONTINUES
Despite the federal legislation bearing Detective Zadroga’s name, the implementation, financing and allocation of the funds have become mired in the sordid legislative process of our inept, self-serving Congress. This is just the latest insult to the years of injury, a twisted heaping of Congressional salt in far too many wounds. But, perhaps that is just a broader statement on the state of our government and the quality of scumbags who occupy elected office.
No one is asking for something they are not entitled to. No individual or group takes any pleasure in the fights that have occupied an unacceptable amount of their time, strength and spirit over these last eleven years. Many of them have been more preoccupied with their health, with their own mortality, the survival of their families once they are gone and this harsh set of realities infuses the fights and machinations of the last decade with a streak of cruelty that has no doubt hastened more than one death and caused incalculable anguish, anger, frustration and insult to many hundreds of families.
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) and The Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) have and always will take care of our own. Each, respectively, the largest agency of its kind in the world stands as models for similar agencies throughout the world. Each is well steeped in history and tradition. Each has a proud and noble heritage. FDNY and NYPD have always been extended families that once sworn in you are never not a part of. It has been this way for generations and will continue to be so even as both agencies see ever more diversity in their membership. Members of each Service live by sets of rules of conduct, live by codes both written and unwritten each of equal potency and obligation. It could not be any other way. What the fine men and women of these two premier agencies do in the most complex urban environment packed into a mere 310 square miles requires a commitment to cause and to each other that create bonds and loyalty that may be difficult for the outsider to fully appreciate.
Every man and woman who has ever served the City as an MOS of FDNY or NYPD accepted privately the risks involved with their specific jobs. Those occupations are rarely sought by people who are naïve about the realities of what it means to be a Fire Fighter or Police Officer in The City of New York. There is not an MOS from either agency that has left the Job completely unscathed. Some bear more serious physical scars and disabilities than others. Some have some war stories to tell and can count the number of stiches, broken bones, and burns incurred over their careers. Some, arguably all, carry with them the sights, sounds, smells and memories of all they had witnessed, of all the years of seeing people at their worst, in their most dire straits, in their most profound anger, grief, and frustration. The innocents, the babies crying in the apartment next door, the little girl cradled in the arms of a Fire Fighter clutching a filthy baldheaded doll as her building blazes behind her, the mother of the 16 year old thug who crossed a more belligerent and better armed 15 year old, her grief as profound as any parent's. Those are just some of the take a ways from the Job. This aspect of that social contract is largely unknown and certainly unappreciated by the public, that covenant entered into voluntarily yet never fully exited.
Now the Congress is intent on “borrowing” from the Zardoga funds to make payments on the national debt. How convenient. How insulting. Just the latest episode of disrespect for those who sacrificed without question or hesitation.
** Excerpt from Wikipedia
To all who served, to all those we lost, we will never forget
your service and sacrifices to The people of The City of New York
will always be remembered, respected, and honored.
TAGS: ZADROGA BILL, WORLD TRADE CENTER RECOVERY, FDNY, NYPD, SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, PORT AUTHORITY NY/NJ,
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