Friday, April 29, 2011

Helping Our Heroes

I turned on the TV just in time.  Literally, as I hit the button on the remote, I caught the second tower about to collapse.

Disbelief, fear and anger raced through my mind.  I would like to say that the shock wore off sometime later, but that would be a big lie.

I couldn't even comprehend the lives that were down there.  Just so many people in one of the busiest parts of the country, maybe the world.  All I could think about were the people I knew.

Family friends that worked for the Port Authority, various friends/family members that work in New York City and my good friend George.

My buddy George is a N.J. EMT who works in some of the roughest/toughest parts of the tri-state area.  With all his knowledge and expertise, I knew he was going down there.

Days went by.  No answer. And I couldn't get in touch with his family.

I walked into my night class, expecting to see his empty seat. 

I must have looked like a kid on Christmas morning.  Seeing him there, after seeing so much hurt and turmoil on TV, it was an amazing gift.

He didn't give me the same look back.  Not that he didn't want to, but I don't think he could.  He was down at ground zero for almost two and a half days straight.  In fact, when I saw the the second tower collapse, he was already half way over the Verazzano Bridge (bridge connecting State Island and Brooklyn that perfectly overlooks Manhattan).

His body and mind were beyond the point of exhaustion.  He saw so much pain and anguish.  Something that not many people can comprehend or imagine before that day.

He had to be in class. He needed to decompress after everything.  Dealing with class work or talking about what he saw is what he needed. 

The one thing he emphasized; the lingering health effects.  Besides the physical injuries anyone can see, he said that dust and debris will cause problems for years.  Probably decades.

Fast forward to this week.

I’m not sure why it took so long.  But for whatever reason, 10 years later, we are finally helping those first responders.  A health care bill is in place to help these true heroes.  Finally, they are going to have the help they need, for unselfishly entering the gates of hell.

Too bad congress F'd the whole thing up.

A paragraph.  A single paragraph. Screwed up the damn process.  The small amendment basically states:

"The FBI must conduct background checks on those first responders to ensure none of them are terrorists."

No joke. No punch line.

A buddy said to me, "maybe it's a quick background check.  Sorta like the way a credit card machine checks a pending credit card purchase." I chuckled and responded, "Nothing congress does has, or ever will, be that fast."
Nope, they're being told to just keep on waiting.

My only reaction is that Rep. Stearns (R-FL) must have miss-worded it in the bill.  No way can anyone add such a slap in the face to the biggest heroes I know.

But think again!
Hats off to the boys and girls on capital hill.  Only they can F'up this bad.

While these heroes wait for health care, a basic request we would like; almost 250 people on the terrorist watch list bought guns last year!

Oh, it gets worse.  Since February 2004 -- 1,453 people tried to buy a firearm.  Astonishingly, 90% were successful.

So let's recap.

9/11 first responders can't get health care because they might be a terrorist.  However, people who are possible terrorist suspects can buy weapons, because they have a right.

I was never great at math, but this doesn't add up. 

I'm not going to go into the safety of national security, debate gun laws or even respond to what the NRA had to say.  If I got to look at congress, all I would say is, "how dare you?!"

War veterans and these first responders are true American heroes.  They signify what our country stands for, and what it's capable of doing.  In return, all they're asking for, is a healthy life.  Nothing more...nothing less.

People who receive Social Security, or Medicare, don't get a background check.  Also, I'm pretty sure bank CEO's didn't get checked before taking billions of dollars in bailout money.

The desire to help our first responders, was probably the one debate people didn't argue.

But much as they deserve it, we even screw that up. 

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