Next Wednesday will mark the 18th anniversary of one of the most tragic days in U.S. history, when 2,606 people were killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. It is always a painful anniversary for all of us in the metropolitan area.
It’s a day when most Americans, particularly New Yorkers, can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they learned that two planes had crashed into the twin towers, erupting in fireballs. Many Long Islanders remember scrambling to find out if their friends and family members in Manhattan were OK. Sadly, too many learned that their loved ones were not OK.
The Freedom Tower now soars above the Manhattan skyline, but the magnitude of that terrible day is still felt in 2019. Thousands of public servants rushed to what was then known simply as “the pile” to help with rescue and recovery efforts. Too many of those first responders have since died because of 9/11-related cancers and other diseases caused by breathing toxic air for weeks, even months.
Luis Alvarez, a former New York Police Department detective and an Oceanside resident, died on June 29, at age 53, of Stage 4 colorectal and liver cancer, which was correlated to his time spent at ground zero. Alvarez was courageous to the end, urging Congress on June 13 to vote to extend the health care protection of first responders in the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The money was temporary until Congress voted to replenish the fund by $10.2 billion over the next 10 years. President Trump signed the measure into law on July 29.
As the years pass, a generation now growing up in a post-Sept. 11 world has only vague memories, or none at all, of that day. Almost all of the teenagers who will graduate from high school next June were born after 2001. But the stories of the heroism of first responders like Alvarez, living or dead, should be passed on to future generations forever.
While 18 years may not be a landmark anniversary, we encourage you to take a moment next Wednesday to reflect, and perhaps visit a local 9/11 memorial in your neighborhood to pay respects to those who paid the ultimate price on that awful day.