As New York City commemorates the 18th anniversary of 9/11, with ceremonies not only at the World Trade Center site but across the city, we must take time to reflect on how that tragic day continues to define our country today.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of our first responders have perished due to the toxins they were exposed to in the aftermath and cleanup. They, too, deserve honor and recognition for their sacrifice.
After that period of introspection, we must call on our government officials in Washington to do everything they can to give our first responders the health care and help they need moving forward.
Fully funding the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and making it permanent was an excellent start, but not one without controversy.
While Congress has to do its due diligence when it comes to fiscal responsibility, supporting our heroes as they battle cancer is a no-brainer.
Back at home, we must continue retelling the stories of everyday people who stepped up when times were toughest so the next generation never forgets.
In Maspeth, for example, the 26 names etched into the memorial at Maspeth Memorial Park represent residents and firefighters from Squad 288/HazMat 1, which suffered the single largest loss of life of any FDNY firehouse on 9/11.
In Forest Hills, Richie Allen Pearlman, a member of the local volunteer ambulance corps, died after rushing to assist police officers at the World Trade Center. At 18 years old, he was the youngest first responder whose life was taken that day.
In memory of Richie, Squad 288/HazMat 1 and thousands of our first responders who fought against 9/11-related illnesses, we must continue to not only remember their lives, but act to save others who suffered on that fateful day.