By Peter Johnson Jr.
In the hopeful advent of Christmas and in the optimistic wake of Hanukkah there is a sad, baleful September song playing in the halls of the U. S. Capitol and it echoes from New York’s Harbor to San Francisco Bay.
It creates a miasma as thick and acrid and wrenching as the toxic fumes, dust and smoke experienced by more than 60,000 first responders and clean up workers at the site of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack.
Some say 1,000 of them have died of disease caused by their exposure and their courage and their trust of our government. The survivors hope that the next X-ray or CAT scan doesn’t bring word of an incurable cancer or lung disease.
Last week Congress told them that they could drop dead.
The United States Senate refused to bring the James Zadroga 911 Health and Compensation Act to the floor for a vote. Some opponents of the bill said that Congress needed to know how it’s 7. 4 billion dollar price tag would be paid for over the next ten years.
I guess they failed to understand that these folks already gave at the office-- a hellish pit of death and desperation where strangers and siblings dug side by side for the remains of firefighters and cops and EMT’s and office workers. That they paid the bill in full with their courage. And are still paying today with their lives.
Shame .Embarrassment. Outrage. Anger. All are proper reactions to the conduct of our Senators who will now find one excuse after another to explain away the fact that they have turned their back on American heroes. Heroes whose only sin was to expect nothing for their service and were then promised the world by politicians who couldn’t take enough pictures with them.
And now they will get nothing more as we fund one give away program after another to rich and poor alike in this country. By a Congress who decides to begin deficit reduction on the wide shoulders and strong backs of people who define the term, great American. Some Senators said these 911 programs are full of waste fraud and abuse. I would suggest that the U.S. Senate proves it has the corner on that market.
We are fighting a lot of wars in this country. The fight against terror. The fight for a strong economy and new jobs. The fight against complacency.
In this fight, America fought America. And we all lost. And so the halls of Congress will reverberate forever with a haunting September 11 song as our heroes pray that the next cough they utter is not the beginning of their days dwindling down to a precious few.
People on TV are sometimes practiced at outrage. The injustice of this makes words hard to come by. All I can ask is what if your father or son, or wife or sister was a hero and no one cared? What if it was you and you were counting on America the same way America once counted on you? In this terror stained world what will happen if it is you?
Peter Johnson Jr. is a lawyer and legal analyst.