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So I was trying (and failing) to ignore the whole ridiculous business of people protesting Colin Kaepernick and Nike. After reading comments in LinkedIn and to another blogger here in WordPress, I decided, screw it, I have a few things to say on the whole topic, so I did, for the Tuesday’s Gratitude post this week, not realizing it would coincide with the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

So today’s going to be a double-feature. I have always been extremely grateful for the fact we have a healthcare and emergency services system. We often take the emergency services sector very much for granted; we often forget that the people who work in this sector are human, they make mistakes and they are rarely ever afforded any respect let alone understanding or compassion.

Even this business with Colin Kapernick’s protest and Nike, the police brutality, and the inequality of the whole justice system as well…drawing attention to a problem with a system and saying “hey, this needs to be fixed” is not saying the whole thing should be done away with completely. The problems are not beyond any resolution; but they do have to be pointed out before there can be any resolution.

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No joke.

The fact is we have a bad cop problem; we obviously have a racial inequality problem; we obviously have a problem with some people (not all people) trying to set a hierarchical value on human life; specifically on the color of the skin of that human life. But on September 11, 2001, none of that shit mattered. Nobody gave a flat fuck about what anybody’s skin color was that day.

On that day 19 religious extremists decided to kill as many Americans as they possibly could and they didn’t care about religion, race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation. They did not care about any of the many different ways we come up with to separate ourselves from The Other. It resulted in the single largest emergency services response in American history; the responders didn’t care about those differences either.

I couldn’t even begin to guess at the numbers of  police and fire dispatchers, firefighters, EMS and ambulance personnel, police officers, and hordes of volunteers with past or present experience in any of those fields or in the healthcare system jumped into that mess either at the World Trade Center, Pentagon or Shanksville PA site. I am not sure anyone ever tried to count them. What are counted are the ones that died.

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Also no joke.

The 19 terrorists died and took with them more than 2,600 from the World Trade Center, 125 at the Pentagon, 256 on all four of the planes. And hundreds more in the ensuing years; emergency responders that survived that day only to die from various illnesses, in some cases, multiple illnesses as a direct result of their response to the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Thousands more are sick and dying today.

We always focus on those that died on 9/11/2001. When politicians want more money for the Defense budget, Homeland Security, the Military, or just want to show they are especially patriotic in campaign years, they talk about 9/11/2001. It’s always a fight to get funds to take care of these same emergency responders, much like it is when the patriotism gets trotted out and thrown around until someone brings up veterans needs.

When talk comes around about the health needs of military veterans, active duty and their families, whenever talk comes around about emergency services personnel from 9/11/2001, suddenly everyone turns into a “fiscal Conservative” and they say things like “I don’t support Socialism!” They supported it just fine on 9/11/2001 when it came by the thousands to save as many lives as they could at the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

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An integral part of the team.

They supported it just fine when it went to work for on the recovery process at Ground Zero, pulling bodies and debris out of there, night and day until the job was done. They support it every time there is a natural disaster hurricanes, superstorms, wildfires, tornadoes, floods. Or man-made disasters hazardous material spills, explosions, algae blooms, active shooters, regardless of the threat or hazard, or personal risk they come.

The police and fire dispatchers answer the phones and direct the calls; the police, the fire fighters, EMS paramedics, they show up. It does not excuse the bad behavior of a few, the ones that do horrible, abusive things whenever they think they can get away with it. And that horrible abusive shit also should not erase the good these men and women do, and have done for decades. The good should not be erased, and the bad can’t be erased.

It has to be faced. It has to be faced so that it can be fixed. Because despite all of the diversionary bullshit, all of the polarization that has us all factioning ourselves off according to whatever aspect of ourselves we wish to identify with most: race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation going on today, there is something we cannot and should not forget, other than those who died.

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24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Nights, weekends, all holidays, major and minor.

That on 9/11/2001 tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of emergency first responders went racing into burning buildings to save other people and they did not pay the least attention to race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation. They themselves were of all races, all religions, all nationalities, all genders all sexual orientations and the only thing they cared about was whether or not there was a pulse.

And that is why I am grateful for each and every one of these people, every day, ever since. I see them going about their business all the time. At restaurants, at the grocery store, at the gas station, on the roads. Just ordinary people doing a job, usually underpaid, often unappreciated when they aren’t needed. Yeah, the police can tell when they aren’t wanted around, are not trusted, are the cause of other people’s fear.

It’s not an easy job. Clearly some of them are just as scared of the civilians around them as the civilians are of them. That’s because of all of this fear-mongering polarization and division into group factions. It’s because of the biases and the stereotypes; it’s because of the ignorance and its because of all of the blaming and counter-blaming. I am still grateful for them because I know if there is another attack like 9/11 they will come.

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It’s hard work and pay is usually not equitable, but good days make it worthwhile.

They will come just as fast as they did on 9/11/2001. They will once again, without a so much as a second thought, come racing in to risk their lives and the only thing they will care about is who still has a pulse. They will remind the rest of us that in the end, none of our differences, no matter how much we fight and argue with each other and everybody else, in the end we are all Americans. They will remind us of our humanity.

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THANK YOU EMERGENCY SERVICES.

Further reading: Statistics from 9/11 and 15 Years Later and THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States EXECUTIVE SUMMARY