Remembering our heroes sacrifice

U.S. U.S. Senator Kristen Gillibrand | 9/7/2011, 2:56 p.m.
Remembering our heroes sacrifice

Like all Americans, I will never forget where I was the morning of the 9/11 attacks. I was traveling with my husband when I received the call from my mother that would change my life. I was living in New York City at the time, so when I heard the news, I was overwhelmed with horror, trepidation and extreme anxiety for friends and loved ones in harm's way.

As I reflect on that terrible day 10 years later, the overwhelming images that stay with me are the amazing acts of heroism and selflessness we saw that absolutely define us as a nation-ordinary Americans who didn't need to be asked to commit extraordinary acts. They ran up those towers as everyone else was running down to search for survivors and save lives, spending countless hours in the piles of rubble in the days that followed, recovering those we had lost.

They came to America's rescue in our greatest hour of need. As a result, tens of thousands of these heroes became sick and are now literally dying from the toxins they inhaled at Ground Zero.

That's why, in my first two years in the Senate, I was so passionate about fulfilling our moral obligation to the heroes of 9/11, providing them with the proper health care and compensation they need. It was with great pride that I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our first responders and community survivors, and my colleagues Sen. Charles Schumer, Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Peter King and the entire New York congressional delegation to ensure that Congress remembered their sacrifice and stood by its heroes. And it is with great sadness we remember today the heroes we have lost and those we will lose in the future from the toxic brew at Ground Zero.

Now as we approach the 10th anniversary of the atrocity of 9/11 that left us with so much uncertainty, one thing is clear: We must continue to stand by our first responders and provide them with the latest tools and resources needed to handle a major national emergency and save lives. It baffles me that nearly 10 years later, one of the key recommendations from the 9/11 Commission Report has yet to be implemented.

The committee identified insufficient interoperability between communications systems used by first responders during the attacks and rescue efforts at Ground Zero as a major issue that needed to be addressed. Firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians and other public safety professionals currently communicate on different frequencies and with different systems, creating barriers to providing a coordinated and efficient response during an emergency situation.

The solution to this national security problem hasn't languished due to a lack of technological know-how. The technology exists today. It has languished due to a lack of political will. Congress cannot afford to wait another day to implement commonsense legislation that would enable all of our emergency responders to communicate with each other in real time during a national crisis. There is no higher priority than the security of our families and communities.