During one of the worst tragedies in our nation’s history, hundreds of men and women — firefighters, police officers and volunteers — ran into harm’s way, demonstrating courage that continues to inspire 15 years after 9/11. Many of them are now paying the ultimate price as they fight to overcome an array of illnesses that have been attributed to the toxic air at ground zero. Some have died, serving as a continuous reminder of the horrors that struck our country that Tuesday morning in 2001.
Steve Brickman of Jamesport, who is featured in this week’s paper, is just one of the men and women for whom rescue efforts at ground zero have resulted in a cancer diagnosis. As we remember the nearly 3,000 victims of 9/11, we also salute those who, like Mr. Brickman, continue to suffer for their sacrifice.
Thankfully, Congress got its act together late last year in time to extend the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which will allow an additional 75 years of coverage for the first responders at ground zero. That it took so long is an embarrassment for our government.
The pain felt by the loss of life on 9/11 hit so far and wide, it was difficult to find any place unaffected. In Riverhead and across the North Fork, families struggled to comprehend the deaths of Derrick Washington, a father of three who was a senior communications technician for Verizon; James Christopher Cappers, a father of two and an assistant vice president and private broker with a financial services firm; Kevin Williams, who worked for an investment banking firm and had been set to marry his high school sweetheart Dec. 1, 2001; and Tom Kelly, a New York City fireman who responded to the initial call out of his Brooklyn firehouse, Ladder Company 105.
The world has changed in many ways over the past 15 years, and the threat of terrorism remains strong. But we are comforted to know that in the face of danger, so many are willing to sacrifice themselves to do what they know is right.