Dramatic License

A weblog of thoughts, inspirations, experiences of, in and about live theatre, film, television, literature and other media.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rant - Ten Years After 9/11: NYC Commemoration Snubs, Ohio Issue 2 (aka SB5), and the Future of Our Protective Services

As I write this, I am reminded of what I was doing at this very moment that morning.  It is around 8:46 AM this morning, and on that morning, I was going through a bank ATM.  I don't remember if I was depositing or withdrawing, but either way, I got a receipt that was stamped 8:46AM, 9/11/01.  I still listened to the radio in my car in those days, so as I pulled out of the bank, I heard the DJs talking about something that was happening at the World Trade Center in New York City.  Nobody knew exactly what was going on, but they stayed on top of it.  When they did not return to playing music after returning from the commercial, I realized that something very seriously wrong had happened.  They continued reporting on the events as I drove the 35 minutes to my job and by the time I got to work, I was fairly certain that the world as I knew it was about to end. 

My office was glued to the television, watching the flames and smoke, watching the towers fall.  We made frantic phone calls.  Just the day before, I had dropped one of our vendor sales reps off at Cleveland Hopkins Airport.  He lived in Boston and commuted regularly to New York City.  Although the hijacked planes were among the regular commuter planes he normally took, he was not on one of them that day.  He was working from home.  We were relieved.  Around noon, the boss let us all go home if we wanted in order to be with family.  My wife gathered our children from their respective schools and brought them home as well.  They were 8, 4, and 1 at that time, my youngest had just learned to walk the previous Labor Day weekend during a camping trip.  My wife and I hunkered down in front of the TV for almost 3 days straight.  We cried for people we had never met.

So where are we ten years after?  We still have troops trying desperately to maintain stability in Afghanistan with little or no end in sight to that military action.  Despite having formally ended hostilities in Iraq and having declared that we would stand down our troops and bring them out of that country, we still have many more there, including my brother who just got his deployment orders and will be leaving this week for a 90-day mission.  We have the worst economic slump since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  We have an extremely polarized political climate that is threatening to push us to the brink of a second civil war.  We have misguided politicians using 9/11 for their own self-aggrandizement and their own campaigning.  We are still suffering national effects of PTSD.

Not a single politician took any heroic actions 10 years ago.  President Bush was informed of the situation and opted to continue reading to and with the elementary school children he was visiting that day.  Today he claims that it was the right thing to do, so as not to induce panic in the children.  That day, however, his face told a different story.  Upon being told about the incidents, his face went blank and ashen.  He had the look of a deer caught in the headlights.  He had no idea what to do.  Continuing reading to and with those children served to buy him time to decide what he was going to do.  He left that school and spent the rest of the day flying hither and thither across the country in Air Force One.  Panic seemed to be the word of the day as politicians around the country thought that their cities were next.  Even Cleveland's then mayor, Michael White, issued statements warning people of imminent threats, evacuating buildings, and closing down access to the city.

However, while these public officials were busy panicking their way through the day, police and firefighters were calmly working their way to the Twin Towers, climbing hundreds of flights of stairs, quickly ushering people to the streets below.  Those who found themselves trapped above the flaming floors were calmly calling their loved ones and leaving messages that said, "I love you."  None of them were panicking.  They were calmly doing their jobs and doing them well.

So, how are we repaying those devoted public workers ten years after the incident?  We are shunning them from the commemoration ceremonies in New York City, claiming that there is no room for them with all the political dignitaries coming to speak.  In the State of Ohio and other states around the nation, we are blaming them and their health care benefits for draining state coffers and passing laws that restrict their rights to negotiate for not only better wages, but for better, more comprehensive benefits.  We should be ashamed of ourselves for both of these things.

I hope it never comes to this, but I fear that it will.  Imagine a day nearly a decade from now.  Let's say, some time in the year 2020 (because hindsight is always 20/20).  Another attack comes to one of our cities, perhaps Chicago's Sears Tower, or San Francisco's Transamerica pyramid, or Cleveland's own Ameritrust building.  Imagine if you will, police and firefighters, wearied by nearly a decade of slowly diminishing wages and ever worsening health care benefits, their ranks depleted because good men and women no longer want to become police and firefighters because of the lack of benefits and respect.  Imagine them making their way to downtown Cleveland and being expected to throw themselves in harm's way to save the very people whose elected officials have stripped them of their benefits.  While they will probably still do it and save many lives that day, they would be perfectly justified not to lift a finger at all.  They will certainly be justified in being resentful, unlike the the first responders on 9/11/01 who responded not only out of duty, but out of respect for those whose lives they had come to save.

So, New York City officials, you should be ashamed of yourselves for not inviting the real heroes of that day to today's commemorations.  The rest of the states in the nation, you should be very wary that you will reap what you sow.  If you sow seeds of resentment, you will reap resentment in the future when you ask those whom you have vilified to do you a favor.  If laws like Ohio's SB5 are allowed to stand, future police and firefighters will make decisions only to do the very minimum necessary.  I fully expect homes and businesses to burn to the ground in the future if there are no human lives in jeopardy.  I will not shed a tear for a single business that loses a building or inventory in the future because firefighters with lousy healthcare benefits have opted not to risk their lives to save the owner's merchandise when no one's lives were at stake.  You reap what you sow.

The people of the State of Ohio have a choice this November.  SB5 has been placed on the general election ballot as Issue 2.  You must be very careful with the wording of this issue.  It would normally seem that a "Yes" vote is a vote in favor of repeal, however, the Secretary of State of Ohio is adamant that a century of precedent makes a "No" vote necessary to repeal the bill.  Do not allow the ballot language to confuse you.  Read the issue all the way through before you go to vote, read it again in the ballot booth, and make certain that you understand what you need to do to repeal this law.  Only by repealing this law will we ensure that Ohio's police and fire squads get the benefits they have earned and deserve so that they will continue serving us and will continue to be able to recruit the best and the brightest into their ranks.


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