September 11, Six Years Later

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    You remember everything about it.


    You remember where you were, what you were doing, who told you and exactly how you felt when you learned about the September 11 attacks. As if it were yesterday, you have capsulated that moment and locked it in your long-term memory bank, never to be forgotten.

    But it wasn't yesterday, it was six years ago. And even though your memory of that moment hasn't changed, a lot has changed across the nation – and here locally – in response.

    Retail Remorse

    More than 2,700 people were killed when two hijacked planes plowed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. In response, American people went into a deer-in-headlights mode and didn't travel, shop or invest.

    In the first month after the attacks, the Commerce Department reported that retail sales declined by 2.4 percent in September, the largest drop in nearly 10 years at that point. The sharp falloff in retail sales was three times the size of the decline predicted by many economists. Local companies, such as General Electric, immediately trimmed down. Just as an example, by late October 2001, General Electric announced it would eliminate approximately 400 jobs from its Cincinnati facility.

    And thriving small businesses, such as Donna Salyers' Covington-based Fabulous Furs business, saw their darkest hour immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Fortunately, Salyers – unlike many other local small business owners – is now able to say she survived and is now thriving again.

    "Shopping was the furthest thing from people's minds and the economy went spiraling out of control. It was dreadful. We had half-price sales just bring in cash to pay the few people not laid off yet," Salyers recalls. "I feel very lucky and blessed to have a company that lived through such a dark time."

    Health Disaster Relief

    Approximately 25,000 rescue and recovery workers responded to the scene of the World Trade Center collapse. For as long as nine months, these individuals were exposed to a mix of dust debris, smoke and chemicals. Now, of those 25,000 individuals, 3.6 percent are developing asthma after working at the site, which is more than 12 times the expected figure for adults over a similar time period. In addition, many rescue workers are now suffering from a variety of other symptoms, including gastrointestinal problems and debilitating back pain.

    Thanks to September 11 recovery grants totaling more than $16 million from the American Red Cross Liberty Disaster Relief Fund, an estimated 15,000 respondents will receive medical and social work services over the next two years for health problems related to the disaster. According to the American Red Cross, uniformed and non-uniformed workers and volunteers who participated in the arduous recovery and reconstruction effort at Ground Zero are the primary beneficiaries of the Red Cross September 11 recovery grants.

    These temporary grants will help pay for the additional diagnostic tests and medications currently not covered by the federal government as well as provide funding for ancillary services, including programs that will assist them in applying for workmen's compensation and disability. These programs will serve individuals predominantly in New York and New Jersey. However, a grant to the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics will provide screening and treatment for September 11-related health problems available to workers and volunteers from Cincinnati who responded to the World Trade Center site.

    Immigration Concerns

    Last October, Vice President Dick Cheney came to The Phoenix here in Cincinnati to deliver a speech that, in part, underscored the importance of immigration reform and Homeland Security. "The 9/11 Commission focused criticism on the nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists at home and terrorists overseas. The term that was used is 'connecting the dots' – and the fact is that one small piece of data might very well make it possible to save thousands of lives. If this program had been in place before 9/11, we might have been able to prevent it because we had two terrorists living in San Diego, contacting terrorist-related numbers overseas," Cheney said.

    More recently, on August 7, the Bush administration opted for a regulatory assault to toughen workplace enforcement and crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, in response to Congress' failure to enact a new immigration overhaul. The package of enforcement tools will force employers to dismiss thousands of workers whose Social Security numbers don't match those in federal databases, a requirement that already has come under attack from business and labor groups.

    Other measures include a 25 percent increase in civil penalties, expanding the Border Patrol to 20,000 agents by 2009, additional detention facilities for illegal immigrants and beefed-up training to help state and local officers to combat illegal immigration. The administration also renewed its commitment to the controversial border fence.

    But by "connecting the dots" with increasingly strict immigration regulations, a Green Township woman was almost disconnected from her home and family.

    Maha Dakar and her husband, Bassam Garadah, legally came to the U.S. in 1997 and filed an asylum application in 1998. The couple bore four daughters here in the U.S. and they are all now citizens of this country.

    Bassam is considered a “stateless” Palestinian and immigration officials have not yet found a country that will accept him for residency. Maha holds a Jordanian passport and can return to that country. However, Jordan will not allow Bassam to enter the country with Maha and her children face several difficult obstacles because of their U.S. citizenship. Other countries have been approached about letting the entire family immigrate, but all have refused based on their complicated situation.

    But, thankfully, the Dakar family has a powerful ally in their corner. U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot is taking their case to Congress to introduce a private bill, an unusual piece of legislation intended to help an individual with a problem that threatens to cause American citizens hardship. Chabot says Maha qualifies because her four children are U.S. citizens.

    For the past two years, the family has worked closely with immigration officials and Chabot’s office to find a suitable solution that would not divide the family. The legislation Chabot is introducing allows the family to stay in the U.S. while Maha's application to become a permanent U.S. resident is being considered.

    Click here to learn more about the Dakar family and the progress of Chabot's private bill.

    Supporting the Troops

    More than 4,100 US troops have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since Bush declared a "war on terror" in the aftermath of the attacks. And with every drop of American blood, it's making many across the nation question the war and administration. But, thankfully, Americans are supporting the troops now more than ever.

    Lisa Shull, owner of Cincinnati-based Shull's Facility Cleaning Services, is a a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, and so is her husband, two brothers and brother-in-law. "Pre-9/11, I cannot remember ever hearing a 'thank you' for my service. In fact, my veteran status was often the center of humor amongst my peers who had pursued the corporate dream. The military was not revered or respected as much as it should have been. In fact, ironically, one of the places you could guarantee a poor veteran experience was the VA Hospital," says Shull. "However, I am pleased to update that post-9/11, I have been thanked for my service countless times. I find that American's are now proud of their military, their country and their veterans. Also, I am extremely grateful that the service at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center has dramatically improved."

    It's evident that people are doing whatever they can to support the troops. Shull herself is serving here at home through her business. "We use our business to serve veterans in need by providing free housekeeping services and errand running services for disabled and disadvantaged vets," she says.

    In places like Villa Hills and Crescent Springs, "Adopt-A-Troop committees" are forming. The committees provide an outlet for local residents to show their support. For example, at the St. Joseph Fair in early August, they sold postcards for $1 at the festival. Those postcards were sent to soldiers in the 1-320th Field Artillery Regiment, who are expected to be re-deployed to Iraq in September for their third tour of duty.

    Others are supporting the troops in person. According to Allison Leonard, director of the MDX Reds Crew, several Crew members visited soldiers at Fort Lewis and Fort Huachuca this summer to show their support.

    Shull is happy to see this array of support and hopes it continues despite the apparently confused reasoning behind the war. "Always support our men and women who are fighting, even when we don't know what it is we are fighting for. They are the reason we live and die a free people," she says. "I personally don't believe in 'the war' because I don't believe our government has sent our troops over with a clear purpose. I know they don't have the tools to do the job they are being asked to do and I don't believe our government is even sure exactly why we are in Iraq anymore."

    Nevertheless, Shull says, citizens are dying daily for this country and that is what matters. "Our administration needs to get it together," she adds. "If we must fight, let us fight with clarity of purpose, goals and a government that is true to its word. Only then will the sacrifice of our men not be in vain."

    Bush said last month in a speech that the main problem right now is to fight extremism, to recognize that history has called American people into action. "By fighting extremists and radicals, we help people realize dreams. And helping people realize dreams helps promote peace." He and the administration are promoting peaceful remembrances of the attacks that occurred six years ago.

    In New York, rescue workers will read out the names of the dead in a solemn ceremony on Tuesday. Most of Tuesday's ceremony will be held at a park near Ground Zero, the area where the Twin Towers once stood, and not in the site itself, where work is under way on new skyscrapers and a memorial. Church bells are to toll at 8:46 a.m. to mark the exact moment that the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, crashed into the North Tower.

    Here in Cincinnati, places such as the Kenton County Public Library and Mary Ann Mongan Library are holding "Remember 9/11" events. In Clermont County, the Clermont Commission vice president Mary Walker is encouraging citizens to fly the American flag at half-staff on September 11 to honor the innocent victims of that tragic day in history, and observe a moment of silence, beginning at 8:46 a.m.