Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fate's Right Hand

Robert Serra was twenty-one years old in the fall of 2001.  On September's second Tuesday, he spent his first full day at his new job, which job he loved so much that he anticipated spending many, many years on it.  For many of us, the first day at a new job entails filling out forms for payroll and insurance purposes, meeting our new co-workers, and figuring out a good place to go for lunch.  Robert Serra's first day was nothing of the sort. 

The second Tuesday of September, 2001 was September 11.  And it was on that very day that FF Robert Serra began his career in the FDNY.  One day earlier, he had graduated from the FDNY's Fire Academy.  The Staten Island native witnessed the attack on the Twin Towers from the Verrazano Bridge, hustled home to get his bunker gear, and headed into Lower Manhattan.  

FF Serra spent countless hours at Ground Zero, initially in a search for survivors and thereafter, in what became a recovery operation.  In the process, he himself became extremely ill.  He still is ill. FF Serra, now a thirty-five-year-old husband and father of three, has spent the past fourteen years having dozens of polyps removed from his nose and from his sinuses, has nodules on his thyroid, and suffers from a host of illnesses, including acid reflux, IBS, GERD, and PTSD.   His illnesses forced him to retire from the FDNY.  He is one of the many first responders whose ability to continue to pay for the fight against the ravages of his many diseases was recently dealt a body blow by Congress's failure to permanently renew the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which failure led to a portion of the Act expiring earlier this month.  

It has been pointed out countless times, both in this space, and in spaces occupied by those with a far greater gift of language than I, that Congress's unconscionable behavior on this issue is not a Democrat thing or a Republican thing, but merely a Douchebag thing.  It must also be pointed out, of course, that good people on both sides of the political aisle in Congress are fighting the good fight for first responders such as FF Serra.  New York and New Jersey have taken the lead in terms of bi-partisan support by our members of Congress in championing our first responders' cause.  

Proving if nothing else I suppose than just what a fickle bitch Fate can be, FF Serra's first day on his new job proved to be the final day of his future-father-in-law's life.  Among those Cantor Fitzgerald employees murdered on September 11, 2001 was Vincent M. Litto.  Mr. Litto, only fifty-two years young, was a Senior Vice-President at Cantor Fitzgerald.  He was in his office on the 104th floor of the North Tower when it was struck at 8:46 a.m.  Mr. Litto was survived by his parents, Michael and Marie, his wife, Linda, his four daughters, Michelle Restaino, Katie Petras, Kimberly Litto, and Kristen Litto, and four grandchildren.  

Is it irony or is it coincidence that Kristen Litto, the daughter of a man who spent three years as a member of the NYPD prior to trading in his handcuffs for cuff links would would fall in love with and marry a member of the FDNY?  I do not pretend to know.  I do know, however, that Kristen Litto Serra, a young woman whose father was murdered fourteen-plus years ago should not be faced with the prospect of having that very same event circle back on her - and on her family - in an effort to kill her husband too.  It simply is not right. 

And if wherever you are reading this, you live in a Congressional District in which your elected Representative has voted to gas-light FF Serra and the thousands of men and women who are in desperate need of the assistance the Zadroga Act has provided to them and/or you live in a state where one or both of your Senators has done likewise, then you need to do something about it - and about them.


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