Once again, my wife, Gena, and my hearts and prayers go out to Floridians and neighbors in the Caribbean for the devastating impact and aftermath of Hurricane Irma. With Texans just beginning to deal with the recovery for Hurricane Harvey, it breaks our hearts to watch our Florida friends go through similar suffering.
“Don’t call 9-1-1. No one will answer. Can’t rescue you.” That was the message sent out from Florida officials on various news networks as Hurricane Irma barreled into southern Florida, where roughly seven million people were called to evacuate.
As first responders rush in like the cavalry as soon as they can, it got me to thinking and remembering the heroic measures and emergency service personnel who sacrificed everything during the Sept. 11 attacks 16 years ago.
- 343 firefighters (including a chaplain and two paramedics) of the New York City Fire Department, or FDNY;
- Eight emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private emergency medical services;
- One patrolman from the New York Fire Patrol.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page: “One officer was killed when United Flight 93 crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as he and other passengers attempted to regain control of the plane from the hijackers. 71 officers were killed when the two World Trade Center buildings collapsed in New York City. Dozens more have passed away in the years following 2001 as the direct result of [9/11-related] illnesses.”
With Hurricanes Irma and Harvey dominating the news, many may not know that the New York City Fire Department just unveiled the names of 32 more of its members who were added to a memorial wall of those who died of 9/11-related illnesses. Seventeen names were added in 2016, and 21 were added in 2015 – the largest number of 9/11 cancer victims until this year.
The New York Daily Times reported: “The additional names will bring to 159 the number of FDNY personnel who died of illnesses from working at Ground Zero or otherwise assisting in the recovery effort. That’s just under half the 343 FDNY members killed when the twin towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.”
Among those names added this year was 43-year-old firefighter Robert Alexander, whose father, Lt. Raymond Alexander, also died of cancers linked to his Sept. 11 rescue efforts. They are the first father and son firefighters to die from Sept. 11-related illnesses, and we salute them and their love and sacrifice for others.
In addition, advances in DNA testing since Sept. 11 have recently enabled medical examiners to positively identify the remains of another victim of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, according to the New York Times.
Speak of Sept. 11 heroes, Sean Johnson, a Brooklyn-based firefighter with the FDNY’s Incident Management Team and a firefighter with Ladder 170 on 9/11, worked on Hurricane Sandy disaster recovery and is one of about 120 New York City firefighters, police officers and EMTs helping with Hurricane Harvey rescue.
We again salute firefighter Johnson and the other thousands of first responders, medical personnel and relief agency helpers from across the country who are again showing their true colors and spirit of America by helping where they’re needed, especially in the wake of the aftermath of these two catastrophic hurricanes.
Here’s one for the record books: Many may not know that at the very same moment that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 were unfolding in New York, Washington, D.C., and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, a hurricane was spinning off the Northeast coast.
Weather.com actually presents a video and satellite pictures from the day of Sept. 11, 2001, showing Hurricane Erin off the East Coast while billows of smoke go up from the Twin Towers. The broadcaster explained that a relatively small cold front actually deflected the hurricane from making landfall.
I wonder how many of my readers knew that, since the hurricane was barely covered if at all in light of that nationally tragic terrorist assault on our liberties and way of life.
We said we would never forget 9/11, and we won’t. Let’s make sure to explain our remembrance to those youngsters around us who weren’t alive in that day. Here’s a Sept. 11 tribute video and slideshow to the fallen fireman and other emergency rescue personnel, with a bagpipe playing the classic “Amazing Grace.”
We also won’t stop helping and praying for the victims of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey.
We encourage people across our country to give to the hurricane relief efforts of Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse. The Salvation Army is also offering free disaster training for hurricane relief volunteers.
We lastly encourage Americans to pray this prayer our pastor posted, “A Prayer for Victims of (Natural) Disasters.”