I am in love with my city. I moved here in August of 2003. On September 11th, 2001, I was in college in Connecticut, about 130 miles away. I remember very clearly walking into the living room to see my stunned roommates staring at the television. It didn’t take long for us to realize the significance of what was happening, or the fact that our world was changing drastically in that moment. After some phone calls to our friends in the city, evacuating buildings and migrating on foot north, we drove to campus in quiet reflection and sat in the empty Catholic church, praying together.
My two roommates were and still are two of my dearest friends. Because we each had severe childhood illnesses that progressed into chronic illnesses as adults, none of us were allowed to give blood. So we volunteered at the Red Cross, organizing names of those from Connecticut who were reported missing. Our state lost hundreds on that day, four from my hometown. One of whose name I reported missing, to hear it read weeks later in memorandum.
Eight years after moving here, I am in love with New York City even more so than I was growing up outside of it and looking in, dazzled. I love it more than I did those first few years when everything was bright and new and exciting. The neighborhoods here all have personal meaning and memory. Stores, cafes, museums, parks, street corners – I have a personal relationship with so many of them. After having moved away for a year for work, I came back last year even that much more in love with the city I call home.
So when it worked out that my contribution to Frosting for the Cause fell on September 11th, I started musing on this anniversary early on. Frosting for the Cause is a website where a blogger from the U.S. or Canada daily tells the story of someone, usually a woman, who was affected by cancer. They make a recipe and bring the physical goods to a local cancer charity, and then make a monetary donation to the Canadian or American Cancer Society.
Paula, the organizer of the site, was generous in allowing me to give my post a little twist.
This coming Sunday, September 11th, I’ll be posting my tribute primarily honoring the first responders have suffered from cancers they developed after spending time in the toxic dust cloud of lower Manhattan following the tragedy. 343 Firemen and paramedics and 23 NYPD officers died that day. But in the past ten years 45 police officers have died of 9/11 related cancers, as well as many firemen. Hundreds are facing cancer now, at young ages. First responders who spent time at Ground Zero were 19% more likely to develop cancers in the 7 years post 9/11 than their underexposed colleagues. And for the most part, their health care is not covered by the government.
Enter the organization to which I will be making my monetary contribution, The FealGood Foundation.
John Feal was a construction demolition expert who was called to Ground Zero with his team to help make order out of the chaos. On day 5 of the cleanup, 8,000 pounds of twisted steel collapsed and fell on his foot. After 10 months of a partial amputation, therapy and the chaos that was battling insurance companies, medical facilities and politicians, John started the FealGood Foundation, an advocacy group for first responders.
From their website:
The primary mission of the FealGood Foundation, a non-profit organization, is to spread awareness and educate the public about the catastrophic health effects on 9/11 first responders, as well as to provide assistance to relieve these great heroes of the financial burdens placed on them over the last [ten] years.
A secondary goal of the Foundation is to create a network of advocacy on 9/11 healthcare issues. We not only advocate for Ground Zero workers, but show others how they can advocate for themselves and help others through grassroots activism.
I met John several months ago when helping a friend interview him for an SBS Dateline piece on what Osama bin Laden’s death meant to New Yorkers and the victims of September 11th. I was impressed that, after his accident, this tough-looking guy from Long Island brought himself back to health by nourishing and strengthening his body naturally and without the assistance of painkillers (many first responders injured now also have problems with long-term pain medication). And then turned his life over to advocate for the health of others.
I am proud to make my monetary donation, as small as it is, to this organization.
I’ll then be bringing my food donation (Big Apple Cupcakes with NY Cheesecake Frosting) to a firehouse near Ground Zero that John got me in contact with.
Upon telling a few friends of this blogging adventure, they immediately responded that they’d like to donate as well, and suggested I breach this topic before my post next Sunday.
To donation to the FealGood Foundation,
An unrelated website got passed to me from my friend Elle at Bromography. The blog Project 2996 was looking for bloggers to write online tributes to those who died in NYC, Pennsylvania and Washington DC because of the attacks. So every day this week leading up to Sunday I’ll be posting a small tribute to one of the too many names on their list.
I am so fortunate that I did not lose any friends on September 11th. And like many New Yorkers (and Americans in general), I’m appalled at how the events that occurred on that day affected our political system and our engagement in war.
So my reflection this week will mostly be in thanks. Thanks for the city that is still standing strongly and for the people who live here – the glorious New Yorkers that infuriate and inspire. Thanks for the city that has given me hundreds upon hundreds of breathlessly beautiful moments, whether I’m walking my dog up by the Cloisters, on the back of a friend’s bike as he peddles me through a downpour in Brooklyn, linked arm and arm with friends on warm Manhattan nights, trampling through the falling snow on the way home from a film in the village, or meandering through the Union Square Market and its bounty of deliciousness. New York is part of my being.
Thanks, New York. I love ya.