Certainly I have some personal stake in the health and safety of the 9/11 emergency responders.

But so does everyone else. 9/11 was a day where we saw the worst of people and the best of people. In the backs of the minds of cops and firemen, they knew the stuff they were breathing in was bad for them, but — as always — they focused on the immediate health of others versus their own long-term wellbeing.

The facts have been the same for ages: police officers, firefighters and soldiers don’t live as long as civilians. Their jobs often put them in immediate danger, expose them to toxins and leave them with increased rates of hypertension, depression, divorce, and alcoholism. But that’s the way it is.

These people are part of a close, often insular fraternity. Their families are in the same league, often socializing almost exclusively with each other. Their children, like me, live their lives holding in a mixture half awe and half terror, because we know what can happen, and all too often we’ve seen it.

Many of the 9/11 emergency responders and rescue workers are sick and dying from the toxic air around Ground Zero in New York. This is irrefutable.

Look through my dad’s photos. It was a cloud with a smell he’ll never forget. It’s death, fire and asbestos.

For someone who’s seen murder, suicide, drug overdose and burn victims, this sticks with him.

Think you could stomach that?

Or rather, breathe it in?

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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