A decade has passed since the attacks that brought horrific destruction and death to the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the fields outside Shanksville, Pa. Those acts of terrorism ripped apart steel and concrete and broke our hearts. The families that lost loved ones may never be whole again.
Father Mychal F. Judge, a New York Fire Department chaplain and member of AFSCME Local 299 (District Council 37), was among the first to arrive at the scene in New York. Father Judge did not hesitate when he heard of the attacks. He put on his collar and went to be of help. He died giving the Last Rites of the Roman Catholic Church to a mortally wounded firefighter. He is known today as “the Saint of 9/11.”
Father Judge was not alone. Paramedics Carlos Lillo and Ricardo Quinn, both AFSCME DC 37 members, braved the horrors in Lower Manhattan to support rescue efforts. They too gave their lives, as did Chet Louie, an AFSCME member who worked a second job at the World Trade Center, and five members of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)/AFSCME Local 1000 – Yvette Anderson, Florence Cohen, Harry Goody, Marian Hrycak and Dorothy Temple – who worked for the state Department of Taxation and Finance in the South Tower.
Ten years later, one is still moved by the memory of the many public employees who put their lives in danger. Police officers, firefighters, EMTs and other first responders rushed into the twin towers to rescue the injured. Emergency personnel created caravans to help dig through the rubble. Engineers worked up to 36-hour shifts trying to find survivors. Sanitation workers, child care providers and hundreds of other public employees delivered lunches, supplies and volunteered to do whatever was necessary. Similar acts of courage and service were seen at each of the attack sites.
As the nation pauses to reflect and remember the events of September 11, 2001, please take the time to view this video. It features public service workers who were there that day. We take enormous pride in the contributions made by the many AFSCME members who responded to the tragedy, not only in New York, but also in Pennsylvania and on the banks of the Potomac River. We are proud of the workers from throughout the House of Labor: police, firefighters, hospital staff, transit workers and many, many others. These were everyday people. Their commitment to their communities and to other Americans made them heroes on that fateful day.
Thousands of rescue and recovery workers at the World Trade Center have suffered serious medical problems, including lung infections, respiratory problems and cancer, as a result of the air they breathed while working at and around Ground Zero. Many of these workers, including paramedic Deborah Reeve, a member of DC 37 who searched for survivors in the ruins, have died from conditions that developed as a result of their brave service.
The courage and commitment of these public service workers reflect what is best in our country. At a time of crisis, people pulled together. We saw what was possible when everyone in America stood shoulder to shoulder. We saw what could be achieved when we shared a commitment to support our communities and our country. That is a standard that we should see more often. It is a standard that should be guiding us now.