Posted by: jonahlr | September 2, 2009

Standing Up For Heroes

Norman Siegel is sometimes categorized as a First Amendment attorney, and while it’s true that some of Norman’s best work has been defending our rights under the First Amendment, it’s also important to remember that Norman has fought other battles as well. He went South to fight the systematic exclusion of African-Americans and women from jury pools. He’s fought against the unconstitutional use of eminent domain in New York City. He’s fought for same-sex marriage. But, the fight he’s most proud of is the battle he’s waged on behalf of those first responders who served our nation so heroically in the hours and days following the attacks of September 11th.

These men and women are heroes. They dropped everything they were doing to come down to Ground Zero and begin digging through the remains. They pulled countless people from the rubble. And in addition to the tangible things they did to help our city and country, they also served as an inspiration to all, and as symbolism that no matter the difficulty of the situation, Americans are always up to the task.

In part due to faulty equipment, these men and women exposed themselves to toxic chemicals. Some of these heroes have already passed away as a result of what they endured in the days following September 11th. Many others are alive, but sick. Some are on the verge of death.

And they’ve been left behind by a city government that claims to value their heroism but refuses to take responsibility for the repercussions. Norman was outraged when he first heard about this and that anger remains. And so he has fought the good fight on behalf of these heroes.

Today, on The Huffington Post, screenwriter, play writer, and lyricist Sherman Yellen, writes about various scandals in New York City. Yellen, whose “firefighter nephew, John McNamara, died as a direct result of breathing in the toxins at Ground Zero as he worked to save the lives of those buried in the rubble during and after 9/11,” focuses heavily on the 9/11 issue, speaking on behalf of:

The workers at Ground Zero, firemen, police, and sanitation continue to be shafted by the authorities who refuse to recognize the severity of their illnesses, thus avoiding any compensation for those illnesses that might help them and their struggling families get through this difficult period of their lives…

And in this article, Yellen praises Norman for his work on the issue:

The civil rights advocate Norman Siegel, a man with a long history of service to New Yorkers is running for Public Advocate, and he is one of the few who has taken up the cause of these heroic men and women suffering from their life threatening diseases. He has my vote this year and I hope that of every caring New Yorker.

Norman’s work has been admirable, but the fight remains. The way the city has treated these first responders is scandalous. This city deserves better. And most importantly, the men and women who risked their lives that day deserve better.


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