The US has just marked the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Lives lost have been commemorated and patriotic words said. But are American heroes actually treated with due respect? RT investigates.
They were the first to look disaster in the eye, digging through what was left of the collapsed towers.
“We’ll honor the heroic first responders who rushed to the scene and saved so many,” said Barack Obama ahead of the tenth anniversary of September 11.
The honoring is yet to happen. Hundreds of rescue workers died on 9/11, and hundreds more are dying today.
“The responders are fighting diseases – cancer, respiratory diseases, lungs, heart attacks – since 9/11 1,040 have died that I know about, and now we have to fight to be compensated? It’s disgusting,” said first responder TJ Gilmartin.
US officials refuse to recognize a link between Ground Zero debris and countless illnesses among first responders.
“The government is trying to block them getting healthcare, denied they’re sick, lied and told them the air was safe to breathe day one, continuously,” said radio show host Alex Jones.
“The US government would honestly just prefer that they shut up and/or die. And go away,” said editorial columnist and author Ted Rall.
A retired construction worker, TJ Gilmartin is one step away from cancer. “I had Robert De Niro serving me crème brulee, but do you think one person offered me a mask?”
After over 300 days spent in Ground Zero rubble, TJ is facing lung surgery, but it’s his memories that scare him the most.
“Finding half a woman’s body. The only way you could tell it was a woman’s body, it looked like a big piece of chicken, fried chicken – the acrylic nail polish on her fingertips didn’t burn.”
The 50 year old has travelled to Washington dozens of times to wake politicians up to reality.
“We had to bring bus loads of sick responders. Guys walking in in oxygen tanks. These aren’t guys who are faking it! And every time we took a trip, there was another guy missing, who died. I mean, it’s disgusting,” sighed Gilmartin.
Politicians do give attention to these heroes when they need a photo-op to boost their patriotic credentials.
“American politicians always talk about how valuable teachers are, but then they strip them of their unionizing rights, and reduce their salaries, and treat them terribly. Similarly, the first responders are merely the latest, I would say, suckers to be taken in and used,” said Rall.
First responders pushed to the side, 9/11 has been used as a pretense for questionable politics countless times, including a global war on terror.
“There is a 9/11 fatigue in the United States and in the world, because it’s been ten years, non-stop, of using 9/11 as politics of fear, as an agenda for political gain,” said 9/11 survivor William Rodriguez.
Gain has not only been political. The tragedy has also been commercialized. A money-making machine is operating in full swing on the tenth anniversary of September 11. 9/11 memorial wine for just over 19 dollars, 9/11 remembrance sushi for 12 bucks a roll and a 9/11 tote bag for almost 250 dollars – are on offer in the U.S. to commemorate the tragedy.
“All these vendors make money off of all these baubles and products. And it’s turned into a type of weird Halloween party, where it’s fun to get into the fear of the turbaned bin Laden bogeyman,” said Alex Jones.
While political and commercial profit is all the rage , the last to see big bucks are responders. As they die off, so do the expectations of some like TJ.
“Just to have somebody from the Government say thank you. That’s it. Just a thank you. I don’t want any money, I don’t want any medical. Thank you”.