Reflections on this 16th Anniversary of the September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks
Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Americans awoke and prepared for what appeared to be a normal Tuesday, unaware that their lives, and their world, would soon be changed forever. Soon we would shockingly be thrown into a moment of total disbelief of the worst kind as the largest terrorist attack in history would be carried out on our homeland. Unless too young or not yet born, we all would forever remember exactly where we were at that very moment that the towers fell. For all of us here in New York’s First Congressional District, these attacks struck a most personal chord in ways once thought unimaginable. So many family members, friends, and neighbors were possibly within the vicinity of these attacks and Long Islanders very anxiously awaited assurances that loved ones were safe; some received the most devastating news possible. Like most Americans, many on Long Island could only helplessly watch in horror as evil struck at the heart of our nation. For other Long Islanders, they would courageously and selflessly risk everything responding directly into the danger to help strangers. Many innocent Americans were murdered that day and what was once a normal Tuesday would forever change our lives and our world. On this 16th Anniversary, we renew our pledge to “Never Forget”.
Nicholas P. Chiofalo of Selden, NY, was not like most Americans. An FDNY firefighter with Engine Company 235 in Brooklyn, as well as the Fire Chief for the Selden Fire Department, Mr. Chiofalo had already been on duty for 24 hours when the call came that there was an attack on the World Trade Center. Without a second thought, Mr. Chiofalo remained on his truck and traveled straight into Manhattan to selflessly serve the nation he loved so dearly. Aiming to save as many lives as possible, this hero in every sense of the word went into the South Tower three times to fulfill his mission. Along with his entire crew, Mr. Chiofalo perished when the South Tower collapsed. His sacrifice was not in vain though, and we will never forget what he did that day. Nicholas, among many others at the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and on United Airlines Flight 93, gave up their lives with infinite courage and honor that day. FDNY, NYPD, all firefighters, police officers, EMS personnel, and any other first responder who served on September 11th deserve our unyielding support.
Many of our surviving 9/11 first responders continue to suffer from illnesses arising from their heroic work at Ground Zero. Exposure to the toxic fumes, ash, and debris have caused many to suffer from deadly illnesses and diseases, including cancer and lung disease. While they may have walked away from Ground Zero, many of these first responders have carried the deadly effects of these attacks ever since. That is why the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act continues to be so critically important for our 9/11 first responders and their families. Through this law, the World Trade Center Health Program and September 11th Victim Compensation Fund ensure proper care for those who answered the call that day and in the weeks and months to follow. These heroes must be provided every ounce of support we have to offer as citizens of the greatest nation on Earth, and we must never fall short in this essential obligation.
We also honor all of the brave servicemen and women who have fought, bled, and fell in the war against terror over the past 16 years. The resolve of the United States led to significant actions taken to secure our country at home and abroad. Our nation’s courageous defenders have put themselves in the line of fire time and again in defense of our freedoms and liberties. We must remain eternally grateful for their countless sacrifices on our behalf.
Like so many others, Nicholas Chiofalo did not wake up that fateful Tuesday with any idea that it would be his last. When that call came though that urgent help was needed at Ground Zero, he knew exactly what he needed to do to selflessly save his fellow man. As Americans, we will never forget what Nicholas and many others sacrificed that day. Despite the darkness of thousands of lives innocently lost, heroes like Nicholas Chiofalo fill our hearts and our nation with a strength that is so powerful and positive. That brightest light will surely never be forgotten nor should it ever.
Congressman Lee Zeldin, member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Financial Services Committee, represents the First Congressional District of New York.