New York, NY – On this week’s Sunday night episode of LaborPress’ Blue Collar Buzz, we took the opportunity to pause and remember just how much New York City firefighters have given protecting this city — and how much they continue to give.
More than 340 firefighters were killed responding to the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Sixteen years later, it’s important to remember that New York’s Bravest are still dying as a direct result of the toxic air they breathed in at Ground Zero. According to the FDNY, 159 members of the department have now succumbed to a variety of deadly post-9/11 illnesses.
More than 1,720 retired and active firefighters are currently battling cancer.
“We have all kinds of diseases that have come out of 9/11,” Uniformed Firefighters Association President Gerard Fitzgerald told Blue Collar Buzz. “Firefighters are constantly reminded [of that day] by losing former members of their companies, or even present members that are getting sick. It’s never going to end for us in our lifetime.”
As brave and heroic as they all are, the men and women comprising the ranks of the FDNY are just that — flesh and blood mortals — brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers — who have their limits.
“We like to play the tough guy role — go back to the firehouse [after a call], take a shower and get ready for the next run or go back to our normal tour; our normal day; home to family to deal with regular stuff,” the UFA president told Blue Collar Buzz. “But that stuff builds up on you inside. Whether 9/11 affected you or some after event — as it builds up in your system, eventually, you crack. Some of our guys are battling with that — PTSD or other mental disorders.”
And despite the huge impact on their health and well being, the City of New York has not exactly moved mountains to give the FDNY everything it needs, or as quickly as the department needs it. For that, members have had to rely on their union to fight for them. The same way they have for the last 100 years of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
Back in 1917, not only were firefighters safeguarding this city expected to contend with a myriad of calamities and catastrophes — they were also expected to work more than 80-hours a week.
“Can you imagine? No OT [overtime] — straight time,” Fitzgerald points out. “There have been a lot of things gained over the years with the UFA fighting for firefighters and firefighters’ families. And we’re going to continue to do that.”
That fight, of course, will be a lot easier if New York City citizens remember what it takes to do the job, and continue to demand that firefighters have all the tangible support they need to keep everyone safe.
“It’s my honor to be the president going into our second 100 years,” Fitzgerald told Blue Collar Buzz. “Albert Guinness started us off in 1917, and I have the privilege of starting off the second 100 years.”
LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” airs every Sunday night on AM970 The Answer from 9 to 10 p.m. This week’s episode, as well as every other episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” is also available on demand at www.am970theanswer.com.