responder vehicles at night (GregDPhotos/

9/11: Fed unions, orgs remember ...

On Sept. 11, 2001, the nation and the world awoke to the shock and horror of the United States—and normally safe workspaces—under attack. Over the coming hours, days and weeks, as rescue efforts turned to recovery missions at Ground Zero in New York, the crash site in Shanksville, Pa. and a battered Pentagon in Virginia, it became clear that nearly 3,000 people lost their lives that day, among them many in the employ of the U.S. government. 

Tens of thousands more were injured and psychologically traumatized in the attacks that day—with still more, it must be said, dying of diseases in the years since from exposure to dust and smoke, suicides energized by nightmares, and wars unleashed in 9/11’s aftermath. 

Leaders representing federal employees at civilian agencies and in the military are speaking out in this, the 20th anniversary of remembrance of the events of 9/11, and the heroic emergency efforts of feds—especially first responders—and their counterparts for state, local and nongovernmental organizations. 

“Federal employees were among the many public servants who responded to the attacks 20 years ago. From federal offices to our airports, you went to work because your fellow Americans needed you,” National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon said. “NTEU members were among those brave and steadfast individuals who spent weeks and months at disaster sites stepping up to help our country heal.” 

“The knowledge that you have been there for America, are there for our country now and will continue to be there provides daily reassurance for our nation’s citizens,” he continued. 

The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, also shared words honoring those who served, and the fallen. AFSCME also represents feds at the Library of Commerce, U.S. Patent Office and other agencies. 

“Twenty years after 9/11, we remember the brave AFSCME front-line heroes who served that day,” the union said in a post on its website. “AFSCME EMS professionals, health professionals, public safety workers and countless others did what AFSCME members do every day—they put their communities first despite danger to themselves.”

Advocacy organizations for current and retired military, in recent days, are also expressing the mixture of sadness and pride that embodies many thoughtful recognitions of that day, and the national experience that followed. 

“As we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we remember Marines like these … who were willing to go to the hard places at the hard times on behalf of our country,” David H. Berger, the Commandant of the U.S. Marines said in a release and open letter addressed to currently serving Marines and the Marine Corps Association. “In Afghanistan, like so many other theaters, you [in the Marines] served honorably and courageously, doing all that was asked of you and more. From Camp Rhino in 2001, to Kabul in 2021, Marines made a difference.” 

“In the hours and days after the attacks of 9/11, an extraordinary number of Americans raised their right hands and took an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Berger continued. “Many are now retiring, having spent their entire careers in the same conflict—unprecedented in the history of our Corps. On this anniversary, whether you have served for 20 years or 20 days, we encourage you to join your fellow Americans in quiet remembrance.” 

“We saw incredible courage amidst the carnage in New York, at the Pentagon and in the skies over Shanksville, and we resolved that those taken from us would not have been lost in vain,” stated retired Gen. Carter Ham, U.S. Army in a statement released by the United States Army Association. “In the intervening 20 years, the bravery and selflessness of first responders at home were matched on the battlefields by a generation of women and men who answered our nation’s call to duty.”

“Today, women and men serve in uniform who have no personal recollection of Sept. 11, 2001. Some weren’t yet born,” Ham went on to say. “Yet, still they have chosen to serve.”

“I guess that’s why, on this 20th anniversary of such a terrible day, I still hold on to all that I treasure about America,” Ham said. “Young people still, every day, step forward, raise their right hands to serve us, to defend us from those who wish us harm. That, at least to me, is the enduring legacy of 9/11—service to the nation, rising above one’s personal concerns, even personal safety and well-being, to answer the call to duty.”

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