I usually write about education but this post will not be about that.
It will be about courage, morality, fear and self-interest.
I was born in New York City.
For most of my life I have lived in New York City and I work there now.
No matter where I go or where I live, New York City is home.
I don’t know about people in the rest of the country or the rest of the world, but every single New Yorker knows precisely what he or she was doing when airplanes flew into the towers of the World Trade Center.
And every single New Yorker knows what he or she was doing when the towers fell.
And every single New Yorker is grateful beyond measure that there are people in this city who daily put their lives at risk protecting us.
Thousands were killed on September 11, 2001, but they were not the only victims.
Among the thousands of dead were fearless men and women of the fire department and police departments who we had relied on to protect us.
Despite the courage they showed, they could not protect us from those planes and the results of their criminal impact though they gave their lives trying to.
It was a horrible crime and watching the towers fall was a horrible and sickening sight.
Fear is a debilitating thing. More on that in a moment.
After the towers fell hundreds, perhaps thousands of men and women: police officers, fire fighters, ambulance workers, sanitation workers, and construction workers from the city and many elsewheres near and far worked long hours searching for possible survivors.
When it was clear that there were no survivors left they searched for remains so that they could later be identified and buried.
They moved tons of rubble, breathed tons of what turned out to be highly toxic dust that hung in the air for weeks.
These men and women showed courage, too. Disaster sites are dangerous in ways those of us who have not worked in them cannot fully grasp.
These men and women worked for weeks, breathing that toxic air daily.
Now, nearly ten years after that date that will echo for decades, these men and women are getting sick.
They are suffering unusual rates and forms of lung disease, heart disease and nerve damage that did not show up immediately.
There is little doubt that these diseases are the result of their work at what quickly became known as Ground Zero.
Survivors of those who died in the attack have received monetary compensation for their losses of income, companionship and parenting from those who died in the immediacy of the attack.
Those people who rushed in afterward to search for survivors, remains or relics of the lives that were have losses, too. They have lost their health. Many have been told their lives will be truncated by the diseases they now have.
Morality demands that the rest of us take care of those who take care of us.
That same morality demands that we take care of the health needs of those who searched through the destruction at Ground Zero.
This does not seem to be a difficult concept to understand yet Congress doesn’t seem to get it.
Morality demands that one do the right thing even when it is not convenient or easy.
ESPECIALLY when it is not convenient or easy.
Congress has put politics ahead of morality, ahead of doing the right thing for those men and women who sacrificed so much so willingly.
Congress has refused to pass the bill that, if enacted, would pay the health care costs of those men and women.
We are not talking really big numbers here. The costs of this health care would not approach the billions of dollars given to banks or the billions of dollars given to automobile manufacturers.
But it should not matter if it would be that expensive. Taking care of these people is merely the right thing to do.
Congress should be ashamed but they are not.
Congress does not have morals. Congress members operate on the basis of self-interest and on their fears of not being re-elected.
If you are a teacher, teach your Congress member how to recognize moral obligation and what to do about it.
If you are not a teacher write a letter or make a phone call.
Write lots of letters.
Make lots of phone calls.
Get Congress to act now.