Although I never lived in New York City, I visited often, having lived not many miles from there in Yonkers. I always enjoyed it, especially when I was with my old school chum, Flo; or for a day on my own, having tea in the Ritz-Carlton near Central Park. Or hacking around The Village. I always enjoyed visiting all the landmarks and the museums and just taking in the sights, which needless to say always included the people. I miss not being close enough to just take a subway downtown to anywhere I might feel inclined to go. And seeing more of Flo.
While I wasn’t in New York City on that day of infamy, 9/11—I was just getting on a bus in downtown Las Vegas, heading to L.A. with an ultimate destination of Solvang—I heard the news over the TV in the bus terminal. I had no choice but to keep on with my plans, since I was on my way to my aunt and uncle’s house to take care of them and their affairs since I was their nearest relative and they were both now hospitalized due to an accident.
My seatmate had a cellphone; she called her husband to put on the TV and give her the blow-by-blow update of the horrible news. I could hear it all. Needless to say, just like everyone else, I found it hard to believe. But we listened in all the way to L.A. so I felt close to it, as close as anyone who now (at the time) lived in Las Vegas could feel. I had to take a taxi from L.A. to Solvang.
Anyway, days went by and I bought a newspaper every day—all Solvang editions. I read everything there was to read about the attack. During the days, I couldn’t watch much TV since I was at the hospital and I didn’t want to put on anything to do with the towers. I was keeping it from my aunt who had suffered a stroke during the accident and didn’t need anything else to be concerned about. Her own health and that of her husband was more than enough, although maybe she could have heard the news from those in the hall or passing by. But not from me.
I reserved my TV-watching for after I got home at night; I was so impressed with the way all the First Responders had just jumped right into the mess and the horror to do what they do best: Respond and help in any way they could.
As you could tell from the heading on this column, what inspired me to write about in this issue was hearing the very impassioned speech or testimony that Jon Stewart gave to members of Congress, before the House Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday afternoon, about the ongoing need to fund medical care for those first responders who worked around the World Trade Center site on and after September 11, 2001.
It is now 2019. That event happened in 2001.
I was so pleased to see that he was allowed to say everything he did and to take whatever time he needed to get it all out. In addition to that, he had so many of the First Responders there, even those who were sick and broken from the effects of all they had endured back in 2001 and were still suffering. One man had been through about 68 or 69 rounds of chemo. And yet he still showed up for the cause.
Jon Stewart spared no words in telling those few congressmen who showed up just what he thought about their meager turnout—pointing out
how many of the First Responders were sitting there behind him—and why they cannot just brush aside their need for medical care, NO MATTER
WHAT OR WHY.
I listened to his entire speech on YouTube after hearing bits and snatches of it on TV. No matter what anyone might think of him as an entertainer, if indeed they had any reason to not like him, no one could say he wasn’t sincere in speaking out for the First Responders.
No one could disagree with his sentiments. He brought me to tears when I heard that there was even a chance that all those First Responders would not have every bit of their health and medical expenses covered.
They never hesitated to do their job, never giving “tomorrow” a thought, and yet “tomorrow” came all too soon. Jon ended his impassioned talk to those few congressmen present with these words: “Five seconds. That’s how long it took for FDNY, for NYPD, for Port Authority, for EMS to respond to an urgent need from the public. Five seconds. Hundreds died in an instant. Thousands more poured in to continue to fight for their brothers and sisters.”
And his final comment before the committee told them how it really was, in a nutshell. He simply said, “They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours.”
I’m with you, Jon. There can be no excuse for forgetting their promise to those men and women…even if it means cutting their own salaries
to supply what they can’t seem to come up with any other way.
God bless them, every one.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.