Seventeen years after 9/11, and we do not forget
ROCKLAND – On Sept. 11, 2001, now City Manager Tom Luttrell was working as a business manager, a position he’d only been holding for two months. He was still getting to know the personalities around him, including the office jokester. As it happened, of course, it was the jokester who’d rushed into the room to announce the collapse of the Towers.
“The next thing I know, we’re glued to the television, forever changing our lives,” Luttrell said. “So, today, I’m here to basically say ‘Thank you’ to the first responders – Police Department, Fire, EMS. I’m proud to call you guys my family.’”
For some, that day was a call to arms, Firefighter Carl Anderson told attendees of the Sept. 11, 2018 ceremony at the Rockland Fire Station, at which Anderson, Luttrell, and Fire Chief Chris Whytock all spoke. A moment of silence ensued, and the ceremony finished with a gun salute from the American Legion.
“For some, that day prompted a time of mourning and sorrow,” Anderson said. “And for some, it was a feeling of pure respect and honor for the brave men and women, first responders, ordinary citizens that went beyond the call of duty, and showed what true humanity is.”
Humanity, that day, involved risking future livelihoods in order to keep alive those who may not have otherwise survived that hour.
Even 17 years later, the wake of destruction that rippled through New York City, Washington D.C., and Shanksville stands as powerful evidence of hazards faced by firefighters everywhere.
By June, 2018, the Center For Disease Control’s World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program has been following 71,831 responders of the three locales after that day. Post- 911 health concerns of another 16,653 survivors (including residents living in the affected areas) are also being watched. Between 50 and 99 of them live in Maine.
30,812 of the responders developed Aerodigestive problems. 7,523 of them developed cancer. All from inhaling or absorbing the everyday chemicals, toxins, and construction material found anywhere in the developed world.
In referencing an article, Rockland Fire Chief Chris Whytock told attendees of the Sept. 11, 2018 ceremony that by the end of 2018 more first responders will have been lost from 9/11 cancer than from the actual day of the terrorist attacks.
As cancer is increasingly recognized as a hazard to firefighters in general, a federal law, H. R. 931, effective Jan. 3, 2018, now requires the development of a firefighter cancer registry.
It’s a little haunting, Whytock said, to think that 17 years later, the lives of those everyday responders who’d joined that career field to earn a living while assisting others should continue to bear its toll.
Reach Sarah Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org