September 16, 2021

Heroes

Spectator
By Stephen Tuttle | Sept. 4, 2021

It has been two full decades since we were attacked by crazed murderers hijacking planes and using them as weapons. Calling them “terrorists” affords them more credit than they deserve, a kind of cachet that somehow elevates them beyond what they actually were. We will once again mark the day by showing all the videos of airplanes impacting buildings and the hole smoldering in the ground in Pennsylvania. 

It was a grim day that continues to take lives fully 20 years after the fact.

Nearly 3,000 individuals died as a direct result of the 9/11 attacks, including 343 firefighters, 72 members of law enforcement, and 55 active-duty military personnel. The attacks did not discriminate; residents of 90 countries practicing a half-dozen different religions were victims and more than 20,000 from all walks of life were injured seriously enough to require medical attention. 

It didn't end on 9/11. Those who worked on the rescue and recovery efforts on the rubble were exposed to toxic dust comprising everything and everyone who was in those towers when they came down; glass, plastic, metal, and concrete nearly vaporized to particles difficult to see but easy to inhale. An additional 156 law enforcement personnel and nearly 200 firefighters have succumbed to disease directly related to their work on “the pile.” Thousands more people, including those in the surrounding neighborhoods, have also suffered health issues that can be traced to that dust. 

(At least as bad, it led to the longest and most ill-advised wars in our country's history. After a quick and successful effort to drive the Taliban from Afghanistan, we decided to “save” the country from itself in an effort that was always doomed to fail. That combined with the fabricated folly of the war in Iraq cost us more than 7,000 more deaths and nearly 53,000 wounded to add to the 9/11 toll.)

What won't get much discussed on this sad anniversary is the fact 9/11 might have also been the single greatest rescue of civilians in our history and was surely the most heroic effort by any fire service anywhere.

The World Trade Center towers and buildings 6 and 7 in the Trade Center complex came down, and many others were severely damaged and at risk of failure or partial failure. No one knows for sure but best estimates are that approximately 25,000 people were in those four buildings. That means 22,000 or so got out.

To be sure, not all of those escapes can be attributed to the efforts of first responders. But at the very least, those brave folks escorted out thousands from the second tower after the first fell, and it is a testament to their dedication they were willing to go into those buildings at all.

The heroes are what most of us should remember about 9/11; the military planners and politicians can dissect the two decades since and promise to “never forget.”                       

                                                                *

Speaking of heroes, those courageous souls who drive school buses will be on the road again this week. We need to pay attention to them.

The numbers alone are pretty staggering. According to the National School Bus Council, nearly 26 million children, almost 56 percent of those attending school, ride 480,000 school buses daily. Those buses make a whopping 10 billion stops annually.

According to TCAPS, about 70 percent of local students are bus riders on a system whose buses travel about 7,000 miles and make roughly 3,000 stops every school day.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), school buses are by far the safest way for children to get to school — statistically, about 70 times safer than all other methods.

With all those miles traveled and stops made, accidents are incredibly rare and fatalities of school bus riders even rarer. The 1,500 or so recorded annual accidents nationwide include, on average, about 10 fatalities. And 85 percent of those accidents are the fault of someone other than the bus driver, ample evidence of the skills and dedication of the drivers who get our children safely from home to school and back on every school day. 

We can make this even safer if we'll just follow the most commonsense rules, which, conveniently, are also the law.

When a bus is stopping or stopped with red lights flashing, other drivers must stop whether they’re behind the bus or approaching it from the front. This isn't a suggestion or optional. Even those people who don't like the government telling them what to do must stop. The bus is loading or unloading children whose street-crossing etiquette is always unpredictable. Buses have excellent external cameras that will record those who don't stop, and they will be ticketed. If you hit a child, you will go to jail. 

Respect those giant yellow buses, the people driving them, and our children riding them.   

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