On a day to day basis, we all see it. People who are so absorbed with their own lives that they discount the harm they do to other people. They’ll run over another person with a shopping cart to get ahead of them at the register. They’ll stomp on people to get a higher up position in a workplace. They’ll lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate as long as their wants are met. They cut you off while you’re driving and barely miss your car just to get one car ahead. What’s the point of it all?
We are all on this earth for a short period of time. Yet, so many frustrations are dumped on so many of us due to selfish people who forget what it is to sacrifice even one little moment of his or her life for another person. There’s no compromising and no giving – just taking. For these people, it’s just a “me me” attitude with no room for anyone else’s needs or wants. The only person who exists is the person he or she sees in the mirror every morning.
Then, there are heroes. The word “hero” is such a strong word. It implies someone like Superman who has superhuman qualities. On 9/11, Superman faced his Kryptonite.
The First Responders ran in to help while a building was coming down. They ran in to help when chaos ensued. They searched and searched after the towers came down, and knew…they knew….that the air they were breathing, despite anything that was ever said, was NOT safe to breathe. They knew because they felt it. Yet, they kept looking for life. Later, they were looking for bodies.
I am the wife of a retired First Responder. I remember every day that he came home after 9/11. He was covered in dust and smelled like a crematorium. He said, “One day we’re all going to die from this…from some strange form of cancer or something. There’s no way that air is safe to breathe.” Regardless, these men and women continued going back to help. Those who weren’t around may not be able to understand the patriotism that everyone felt. We watched funeral after funeral procession in our small town while others across the country turned the channel because they were sick of hearing about it. We could never turn the channel because it’s permanent in our lives.
Since that time, I watched my husband develop illnesses. He went from being a healthy and strong person to one who suffers on a daily basis. I often say that I lost him to that day. He is now chronically ill. He was fortunate in that he completed his time on the job no matter how hard it was for him to get to work. Not everyone was fortunate.
There were many who became ill that were chastised, mocked, ridiculed, and had the screws put to them. Many were forced off their jobs and told that the illnesses that developed were their own fault somehow. Some had hardly any time left to retire and were “vested” off – forced to retire with only half their pension and just a couple of years left to go. They were left without a means to support their families. They were left with the inability to work again. They were left in a world full of selfish people who didn’t care.
For years, there was denial regarding the 9/11 related illnesses. Quite a few people banded together in different groups to fight the Powers That Be regarding the denial. From the beginning, when the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring program was established, a few medical “experts” sat down and decided what they thought they’d see transpire. From then on, they were the only illnesses that were recognized. It didn’t matter what people were developing. What mattered is what these people stated from the beginning. Reality versus The Prediction came into play. As time went on and more and more were becoming ill with the same illnesses, things were added to the list. However, it wasn’t without determination from those afflicted who took a leap, came forward without fear of repercussion from their jobs for speaking out, and stood up for their rights and the rights of others. They were heroes in more than the sense of their first heroic efforts. They were heroes for others who were affected as well.
The battle isn’t over. People are still ill. Cancers are emerging at a rapid rate. So many never had the right thing done by them regarding their jobs. Those who were forced to retire and can no longer work not only struggle on a daily basis, but are left with the anxiety of what the future may hold. They describe their lives as “sick of being sick” and are tired of going to medical appointments. Yet, they carry on with determination not wanting to lose the battle because that means the terrorists took more lives.
Next time you get irritated because someone is walking too slow, might get ahead of you in a line, didn’t drive fast enough for you….next time you decide to be a selfish jerk and yell and scream at a person because your life and aspirations are so important to you that you think your best method to get what you want is to tear others down, manipulate, and lie….next time you see a retired police officer or firefighter or veteran and make statements like, “It must be nice,” or, “Why don’t you get a job like the rest of us?” – maybe you should ask yourself what you did for the good of mankind. Maybe you should stop, JUST ONCE, and think that the person you’re doing this to sacrificed for YOU.
So, today, when you hop into your car and get irritated, when you make a mistake on the road and then flip the person off who honked their horn at you, when you decide to dump your anger and hostility onto a person, when you see someone going to a register and decide you’ll make a run for it to get in front, when you consistently manipulate to try to take advantage of people because you feel your needs and wants should take priority in life, try to stop yourself. Learn how to apologize. Learn how to sympathize. Learn how to empathize. But, most of all, learn how to be giving, gracious, and become like those people that weren’t afraid to walk into dangerous situations in order to make the lives of others better. There are heroes walking among us, and it might just be that person you gave the finger to this morning.