“The flames came back … they’re in the trees and the grass.”
“We slept on the street.”
“We’re dying out here.”
The Associated Press has compiled numerous 911 calls from the barrage that Maui operators received the day after wildfires swept through Lahaina. The operator answers were the same each time; emergency responders weren’t able to help find missing people because they were still trying to get people to safety, still working hotspots and responding to fires.
The 911 recordings from the morning and early afternoon of August 9, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, were the third batch of calls released by the Maui Police Department in response to a public records request. The recordings demonstrate that dispatchers and first responders were limited by diminished staffing and communications failures.
Some callers ask where their family members are, some report disastrous fire damage, and others plead with dispatch to tell them where to go to be safe. People were trapped in their homes or hotel rooms, many with no food or water. With each desperate call, operators had relatively the same response: they had no answers.
Since at least 2010 Jon Stewart, formerly of the Daily Show, has been striving to get Congress to provide adequate health care for the firefighters and other first responders that fought the fires and assisted victims after the World Trade Center towers were attacked by terrorists in 2001.
This morning he appeared again before the Senate Judiciary Committee to encourage Senators to approve the bill that will be voted on tomorrow, June 12. Every few years the legislation that funds health care for the 9/11 first responders suffering from cancer and other diseases expires, and the fight to do the right thing must be reintroduced and refought. The bill now pending will make health care for the 9/11 first responders permanent.
You will see in the video how strongly Mr. Stewart feels about this issue.
Here are some quotes from Mr. Stewart’s testimony:
This hearing should be flipped. These men and women should be up on that stage and Congress should be down here answering their questions as to why this is so damn hard and takes so damn long.
Setting aside, no American should face financial ruin because of a health issue.
Certainly 9/11 first responders shouldn’t have to decide whether to live or to have a place to live.
They responded in 5 seconds. They did their job with courage, grace, tenacity, humility — 18 years later, DO YOURS.
Below is an excerpt from an article at The Sun, published September 11, 2018:
In the following days [after the attacks on 9/11], people from every state – and almost every single district – of America helped at Ground Zero – rescuing casualties, digging up bodies, cleaning up and rebuilding.
Now they are paying a high price for their selflessness – while most of the world remains oblivious to their suffering.
Over 2,000 first responders – anyone who helped out at Ground Zero, including building workers, electricians, doctors and paramedics – have died from illnesses caused by breathing in the toxic fumes that engulfed the site in the weeks after the terror attack.
As thousands more currently battle 9/11-related diseases such as cancer or severe respiratory disease, shockingly, it’s predicted that by the end of this year the number of first responders who have died since the tragic event will overtake the number who died on the day…
Where were you when you first heard about the attacks on September 11, 2001?
I was the Planning Section Chief on the Swamp Ridge Fire Complex on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and was about to lead the morning Operational Period briefing where I would hand out the Incident Action Plan with the cover you see below.
We had no smart phones or Twitter, but someone happened to be listening to the AM/FM radio in his truck and heard it on the news. When I learned about the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center I figured it was an accident, thinking about the B-25 that crashed into the Empire State Building in 1945. But when the second one crashed into the other tower, I knew it was not an accident.
Our Incident Commander aggressively insisted that everything go on as planned, allowing almost no acknowledgement of the tragedy. We still had to manage the fire, of course, but I felt that it was a huge event that was having an impact on the whole country including everyone assigned to the fire. A little more empathy was warranted, I believed, for how it was affecting the United States and our personnel. It seemed as if a little PTSD was creeping into our organization out in the middle of nowhere, dozens of miles by road from the nearest small town. An official acknowledgement of what was happening to our country, and encouraging people to talk about it, would have been helpful.
After a day or two we rented a satellite TV receiver system and a large TV for the Incident Command Post which made it possible for us to watch a few minutes of the 24/7 coverage now and then or at the end of our shift.
All non-military aircraft were grounded for a while, including our firefighting helicopters. I remember being in my tent at night trying to sleep and hearing what was a surprisingly large number of aircraft flying high overhead through the darkness. Having little contact with the outside world, especially during the first few days, I wondered where all those military aircraft were going. It was a rather uncomfortable feeling, to say the least.
Remember the huge battles to get the bill passed to provide health care for the firefighters that were suffering from medical issues after working in the debris from the towers that fell during the 9/11 attacks? Most of us felt a huge relief when the “S. 1334: James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009“ was finally passed. We wrote about it several times, with the latest being HERE.
It turns out that the bill, or at least the way the provisions are being interpreted, does not cover the treatment of cancer for the firefighters that worked on the debris pile. Cancer — you would think this would be close to the number one condition covered for the people that worked in that toxic environment.
John Howard, the World Trade Center Health Program administrator, said in a statement that cancer would not be covered because there is not adequate “published scientific and medical findings” that a causal link exists between September 11 exposures and the occurrence of cancer in responders and survivors. So if we wait, and study the link for another, what, 20 or 30 years we can prove it then?
This is a disgrace.
Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, in a piece named “I Thought We Already Took Care of This S@#t”, expresses his opinion on the issue. The clip has profanity, but it is bleeped out.
NorthJersey.com has more details about this development.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government has a vastly different approach. For years the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba have had presumptive coverage for a list of conditions for firefighters. If they are diagnosed with one of the cancers on the list, it is considered an occupational disease and they may be eligible for workers compensation benefits. In fact, Alberta expanded their list in May to include prostate, breast, skin and multiple myeloma, bringing the total to 14 types covered under the Workers Compensation Board. Their government acknowledges that firefighters are at a greater risk of contracting cancer than the general public, and it can be difficult or impossible to prove that a particular case of cancer was caused by a specific incident or exposure, on or off the job.