This piece was originally published on September 11th, 2015.
I was in a physics lab, working on an experiment when the first plane hit. Like most Americans, I felt a mixture of fear, anger, and sadness over the next few days. The eerie feeling of fighter planes flying over our small Wisconsin city that evening, the worry over whether my father would be able to return from his military stint overseas in order to attend my wedding. Of course, this was a minute fraction of the strife the actual victims of the attack felt: the pain of the loved ones of those who were murdered, the PTSD and existential questions associated with those who somehow made it out, and, still, to this day, the health problems of those survivors and the responders who bravely risked their lives to aid those in need.
Though my personal feelings have numbed since that day, there have been changes over the past two years. I’ve seen my son’s innocence shattered when he learned about terrorism through a simple interest in skyscrapers. And, to tie in to our site’s focus on pop culture, I’ve started to become angry. Angry over Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, on CNN at the moment I write this, complaining about Donald Trump at the exact same moment the names of the dead are being read in NYC. Angry over the embattled mayor of Baltimore announcing that she won’t be seeking reelection minutes later. Angry over the marketing efforts of companies desperately trying to garner points by tying their products to the disaster.
And this year, I’m angry again. Living in the bubble of work and parenting, I had no idea that our government has consistently failed the aforementioned first responders. This first came to my attention a few years ago while watching the recently retired Jon Stewart discuss a bill to ensure full health-care coverage to the responders of the disaster. Over the years, Stewart has lambasted Democrats and Republicans about this issue, criticizing Senate filibusters and a general failure to make this a permanent bill. My friends and family run the gamut of belief systems, from NRA Republicans, social liberals to staunch libertarians. Though we disagree on many issues, I know of no one in my social circle who believes we shouldn’t be fully funding care for American heroes.
Today, I see more companies posting ill-conceived tweets regarding the 9/11 attacks, and disgusting Facebook memes encouraging people not to post during the morning of the anniversary, as if that’s some kind of sacrifice. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act of 2015, a bipartisan bill making health care for first responders permanent, is heading to Congress shortly. While our friends, families, and news networks are on social media obsessing about Donald Trump’s hair and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, they are silent about this. And, even sadder, our Congress is again continuing to kick this bill to the curb despite massive approval from citizens. Instead, a retired comedian leads the charge for what should be a no-brainer, as Jon Stewart will be lobbying Congress to make this long overdue bill a reality.
Ceasing Facebook posts for two hours is not the least we can do as a nation. Ensuring that our heroes who continue to sacrifice their lives receive the care they deserve is the least we can do. To learn more about the Zadroga bill, including how to write to your local representative, please take a look at the following site: