Saturday, December 18, 2010

First Responders

This post is a direct result of my laying on my bed last Thursday (Dec 16th) night reading a Dean Koontz novel (Dark Rivers of the Heart, this is probably the third time I've read it), minding my own business, with The Daily Show with Jon Stewart coming on the air on my television across the room, and he began ranting. I provide links to that show, the last Daily Show of 2010, by and by so you can hear his rants as well, if you wish dear readers, but let me paint a picture first.

Okay that's done. Now lets talk about first responders. What are they? Who are they?
The Internet defines them thusly:
"A certified first responder is a person who has completed a course and received certification in providing pre-hospital care for medical emergencies. ..." Wikipedia
So you have to have a certificate, i.e., be trained in CPR and first aid, stuff like that.
Other definitions imply a trained individual as well:
"Person who, in the early stages of an emergency event, works to protect and preserve life, property, evidence, and the environment. First responders may include personnel from federal, state, local, tribal, and nongovernmental organizations."
"This is the first responding unit to arrive at an incident scene. This term has traditionally been used to describe public safety emergency responders who have duties related to preservation of life and property. ..."
So we're basically talking about people like police officers, firemen (and women), emergency medical technicians, "Cops" camera operators, and so on, people whose job it is to respond to an emergency, and who usually arrive first on the scene.
That's usually. In the case of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, there were a whole bunch more people there, and afterwards, because of the scope of the attack and damage done. In the aftermath of the attack, construction workers, rescue workers, Port Authority Police, FBI investigators, qualified volunteers from all over the nation, all worked to sift through the debris and wreckage searching for survivors, victims, evidence, etc. Thousands of people worked diligently to respond to the attack, and all of them are typically referred to as being "first responders."
And why not? This was the largest attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor in 1941, and it had to be dealt with appropriately. For weeks and months they worked at Ground Zero to do just that.
And why not again? They were told it was safe to do so by their own government. After the attack the Bush appointed Administrator of The Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman, the Republican former Governor of New Jersey, appeared twice in public reassuring the workers at Ground Zero (not to mention the residents and inhabitants of the nearby buildings and area) that the air was safe. On September 18th she issued a press release stating: "Given the scope of the tragedy from last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C. that their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink." She also said, "The concentrations are such that they don't pose a health hazard...We're going to make sure everybody is safe."
Hey guess what? She was a politician, not a scientist. In 2003 the EPA's own Inspector General determined that such assurances were misleading, because the EPA "did not have sufficient data and analyses" to justify these assertions when they were made.
And the air wasn't anywhere near being safe. Wikipedia tells us: The dust from the collapsed towers was "wildly toxic", according to air pollution expert and University of California Davis Professor Emeritus Thomas Cahill. The thousands of tons of toxic debris resulting from the collapse of the Twin Towers consisted of more than 2,500 contaminants, more specifically: 50% non-fibrous material and construction debris; 40% glass and other fibers; 9.2% cellulose; and 0.8% of the extremely toxic carcinogen asbestos, as well as detectable amounts of lead, and mercury. There were also unprecedented levels of dioxin and PAHs [Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons] from the fires which burned for three months. Many of the dispersed substances (asbestos, crystalline silica, lead, cadmium, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are carcinogenic [CAUSE CANCER]; other substances can trigger kidney, heart, liver and nervous system deterioration. This was well known by the EPA at the time of collapse."
And guess what again? Whitman wasn't getting her information from the EPA's teams of qualified investigators on the ground after analyzing the air around Ground Zero. No, she was getting it from the White House and President George W. Bush.
Don't take my word for it. In 2008 the United States Court of Appeals for the Second District overruled a lower courts ruling, explaining Whitman could not be held liable for saying the air was safe because she had based her information on contradictory information and statements from President Bush! And then the Justice Department (an ironic name if I've ever heard one) argued that holding the entire EPA liable for the mistake would set a bad precedent because if that were to happen future officials would be afraid of making further [false] statements in public.
What was the inevitable result of the lies from the Bush Administration, Christine Todd Whitman, and the EPA?
People started to get sick. Some of them started to die.
The first NYPD officer whose death was attributed to working in the rescue and recovery efforts following the collapse of the Twin Towers was a guy named James Zadroga.

To be continued:

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