Women rescuers cannot be forgotten on anniversary of 9/11, say advocates
(WNN) New York, NEW YORK, U.S.: As the United States recognizes the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 deaths at the World Trade Center, some of the women heroes that rescued and gave their lives continue to be virtually “invisible,” says the blog, MAKERS, created by U.S. based media networks PBS with AOL.
The good news is that the U.S. government has now just added 50 cancers to the list of diseases helping responders and workers at Ground Zero get proper health care. The extended health care for the cancer diseases just placed on the list is now part of the original James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. Toxic dust exposure is currently thought to be one of the culprits that has caused deaths and disease to those who have put their life at risk during the rescue and clean-up efforts that followed the Ground Zero tragedy in Manhattan, New York.
On September 11, 2001, as the World Trade Center buildings dropped to the ground and recovery efforts intensified, women working as emergency medical responders, police officers, firefighters and military personnel responded in record numbers to help during the crisis. Hundreds of women on all levels, including volunteers, jumped in to assist and help survivors. Three of the women first responders did not survive though. They include Port Authority Police Department Captain Kathy Mazza, New York Police Department officer Moira Smith, and Emergency Medical Tech Yamel Merino.
In addition to the women rescuers, women who served as chaplains, doctors, nurses and mental health workers also worked closely in the following days with survivors and survivors families. Their countless stories as witnesses to the crisis are often part of a personal narrative that has been largely hidden from the media spotlight.
On the tenth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, along with the U.S. Pentagon and the downing of TWA Flight 800, Soledad O’Brien hosted the CNN documentary release, “Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11.”
“It was the largest rescue ever – ever – and women played a big roll in that,” said author and human rights advocate Mary Couruba who co-authored the book, “Women at Ground Zero: Stories of Courage and Compassion,” with award winning news journalist Susan Hagen.
Hagen knows what it’s like to be in harms way. She was also a rescuer herself who worked as a firefighter and an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for years in the area surrounding Sonoma County, California (U.S.).
Realizing that the coverage of women rescuers during 9/11 was practically non-existent, the two authors pooled their resources and flew to New York city and Ground Zero to interview women who had been part of the rescue efforts. “One of the things that bothered us most about the invisibility of women at Ground Zero was that the media presented few role models for girls and young women who might be considering careers in public safety,” outlined Hagen.
In addition to women rescuers and assistance personnel, 9/11 brought out hundreds of women volunteers who worked to bring solace to those who lost loved ones during the crisis.
“…later today we interviewed a police detective who’s been working at the ‘dump.’ She told us what it’s like to sift through the rubble and trash to find bits of people and people’s lives. She’ll be on that detail for a YEAR and can’t imagine what the long-term effects will be of separating body parts and bits of clothing and personal items from the pulverized concrete and twisted steel.,” said the field notes made by Susan Hagen and Mary Couruba during their stay in New York only weeks following 9/11, as the death count from the coordinated attack reached to over 3,000.
“We heard this plane and the echo of it. Then it hit the building. I got blown through the exit, but I was able to catch the door of the building as I came out. I just held on,” said the then 37-year-old New York city woman police officer, and first responder, Carol Paulkner from Transit 2, Lower Manhattan in her interview for “Women at Ground Zero.” Paulkner, who was inside one of the buildings at the World Trade Center outlined further: “People were blowing past me, particles were flying, people were flying. Stuff was coming down right on top of me, and I couldn’t see anything. I held on with one hand, and the wind force was so strong that I couldn’t get my other hand up to the doorway to pull myself through.”
When warned by the FBI that she should leave the area immediately, Paulkner said, “We’re not leaving.” Her and so many others placed themselves in harms way that day as the impact of the crisis of 9/11 was only beginning to be felt. Paulkner’s words would later be used as the title of another book, “We Not Leaving – 9/11 Responders Tell Their Stories of Courage, Sacrifice and Renewal,” that highlights the rescuers of 9/11 by SUNY Professor and Doctor Benjamin J. Luft, who went on to establish the Long Island World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program, which provides care to more than 6,000 disaster responders and has become an incubator for several important research and treatment programs that emphasize both mental and physical well-being.
Paulkner and others who responded first and continued to respond to survivor search efforts in the days following the crisis at Ground Zero, is not having some health issues that she attributes to her time in the toxic environment that surrounded the area around the World Trade Center following 9/11. Her and many other rescuers are part of those who have been recognized ???? by President Barrack Obama and the Office of the White House today.
To see a first hand account by former Captain and 9/11 first responder Brenda Berkman on the struggles for women firefighters in New York city and the work that was done to insure women were included as vital to rescue teams see this WYSK – Women You Should Know video.
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