The sky was falling and streaked with blood
I heard you calling me then you disappeared into the dust
Up the stairs, into the fire …
– Bruce Springsteen, Into the Fire
That warm clear morning of September 11, 2001, it was public workers who rushed into the the twin towers to save lives. Union people, most of them, running up the stairs. The roll call of our lost first responders was awful: 343 NYC Fire Department firefighters, 23 NYPD officers, 37 Port Authority PD officers. More than 2,000 first responders injured.
Today, a 408-ft glittery spire was lifted high and bolted to One World Trade Center. Now 1,776 feet tall, the WTC was built with union labor. Union members rushed in on 9/11, and the rescue operation. Today’s a bittersweet full-cycle moment for the labor movement, and an achievement for the Port Authority of NY/NJ and all kinds of people whose lives are bound up in those building in some way. What must it have been like today for all the families, many in NJ, who lost people that day, or in two questionable wars after those towers?
What I remember from 2001 is the sense of unity and gratitude for the people who work in service for the public. Marie Corfield, a teacher running for Assembly in LD-16 – I contribute my time to this race – talks about this. About her first day as a teacher; it was 9/11, a day of chaos. And the investment we all felt we should make, in the lives of those who serve the public. That’s what I’m remembering today as that tower rises. Back before Chris Christie and his war on public employees. His union thug talk. His cheerleading of Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin union busting. Before the Christiecrats who ruptured their party from the inside to service him, to cover him, and to grow his power.
Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
Wearin’ the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here
Come on up for the rising …
– Bruce Springsteen, The Rising