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Remembering Our Heroes' Sacrifice

Today, as we commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we must continue to stand by our first responders and provide them with the tools they need to handle a national emergency and save lives.

Like all Americans, I will never forget where I was the morning of the 9/11 attacks. I was traveling with my husband when I received the call from my mother that would change my life. I was living in New York City at the time, so when I heard the news, I was overwhelmed with horror and extreme anxiety for friends and loved ones in harm’s way.

Now, as I reflect on that terrible day 10 years later, the overwhelming image that stays with me is the amazing acts of heroism we saw from ordinary Americans who didn’t need to be asked to commit extraordinary acts. They ran up those towers as everyone else was running down to search for survivors, spending countless hours on the pile of rubble in the days that followed recovering those we had lost.

They came to America’s rescue in our greatest hour of need. As a result, tens of thousands of these heroes became sick and are now literally dying from the toxins they inhaled at Ground Zero.

That’s why in my first two years in the Senate I was so passionate about fulfilling our moral obligation to the heroes of 9/11, providing them with the proper health care and compensation they need.

Today, as we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the atrocity of 9/11, we must continue to stand by our first responders and provide them with the tools and resources they need to handle a major national emergency and save lives.

Currently, firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and other public safety professionals communicate on different frequencies and with different systems, creating barriers to providing a coordinated and efficient response during an emergency situation.  The 9/11 Commission identified insufficient interoperability between communications systems used by first responders during the attacks and rescue efforts at Ground Zero as a major issue that needs to be addressed. It baffles me that 10 years later, this recommendation has yet to be implemented.

The solution to this national security problem hasn’t languished due to a lack of technological know-how. The technology exists today. It has languished due to a lack of political will. Congress cannot afford to wait another day to implement common sense legislation that would enable all of our emergency responders to communicate with each other in real time during a national crisis.

It works by providing our first responders and public safety officials with the critical interoperable radio airwaves needed to effectively communicate in the event a major response is needed. It creates the framework for the deployment of a nationwide, interoperable, wireless broadband network for public safety by allocating 10 megahertz of spectrum, known as the “D-block,” to public safety. This nationwide interoperable broadband network would finally enable first responders to communicate across jurisdictions, share critical data such as video feeds and up-to-date information in real-time—making complex operations easier and safer.

At a time when Congress is rightly concerned with cutting spending, this legislation pays for itself by generating the necessary revenue to pay for the development and deployment of this network. In fact, it even reduces the deficit by $6.5 billion. And it does not place any burdensome requirements on public safety entities to return the spectrum that they currently use.

It is simply not good enough when, as New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in his testimony in Washington, “a 16-year-old with a smart phone has a more advanced communications capability than a police officer or deputy carrying a radio.” It is time to bring first responder technology into the 21st Century. 

Just as we did with the 9/11 health bill for our heroes, Congress must and can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to pass this legislation. And we should do it now so our heroes have the best technology available when duty calls.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lance Dugby September 11, 2011 at 08:04 PM
Another political speech. Anything to say about the Muslims that killed all oureople Kirsten? NO? I thought so. PHONEY
Christin O. September 12, 2011 at 01:25 AM
Dear Senator Gillibrand, you must be talking about the "lack of the national interoperable radio network recommended by the 9/11 Commission." In NYC substantial progress has been made - your account does not reflect the current situation! Read more at: http://news.cnet.com/8301-30686_3-20101012-266/a-decade-later-public-safety-still-lacks-national-network/#ixzz1XhDpLJbI - scroll down to "Improvements have been made" and you see why I make this point. If congress would work as it should, this issue would perhaps not be an issue at all any more.
Alex September 12, 2011 at 02:08 PM
What about Westchester county? You have 57 different 911 answering points at every police station, with each operating on their own frequency. Westchester county is the ONLY county in the ENTIRE COUNTRY to have this problem. Read this report from FEMA from 12/2001... http://www.usfa.fema.gov/pdf/efop/efo33158.pdf NOTHING has been done to rectify this situation in our county. Every police station wants their little piece of the pie, and no one wants work together. Consolidation is tossed out the window every time it is brought up. There is no "working together" and ego's run so deep, it is ridiculous. Join the emergency services and you'll see how we have to make cake out of garbage, while giving the perception that everything is 100% ok.
DeeplyConcernedabout T-town September 12, 2011 at 02:28 PM
Adrian, I may be wrong, but the program was way behind schedule and over cost. Politiocs as usual. Also, it didn't work in upper NY northern counties.I was told.
Jack Miller September 13, 2011 at 04:42 PM
How nice of you to take the time to release this note Senator. We have all come a long way since 2001, especially you. Do you miss defending the large tobacco companies and trying to withhold important testing information about the ill-effects of smoking?

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