September 11th: The New Labor Day


When the towers fell, the only thing I could think about was work. My new friends & colleagues were in One WTC on the 35th floor. I worried about their welfare and I wondered if my teleconferences were canceled. Sigh, can you believe it? The focus on work is so reflexive. The enormity of the event didn’t hit me until the towers fell — maybe even later than that.

I remember thinking, Hijacking? Terrorism? In America? At work? Not in Corporate America! This would make more sense at a post office — not an insurance and investment office in Manhattan.

Six years later, I’ve come to think of September 11th as the New Labor Day. The victims of this terrorist attack were employees, employers, support staff and executive leaders. They were white collar and blue collar — legally and illegally employed for some of America’s largest corporations. They were pilots and flight attendants, business travelers and vacationing passengers. Some died at work, and some died while taking a vacation from work.

It’s so haunting to think that an American citizen could die at work from terrorism. It’s cynical to write this, but what terrorizes me most is the meaninglessness of these deaths. Some of the deceased were thinking of their families as they faced death; however, others didn’t have a chance as they discussed the latest office gossip & corporate politics. Too many lives were over before people had a chance to pull themselves away from work and prepare themselves for their final moment.

What’s enrages me most is that Americans who witnessed the attacks on 9/11 and rushed to volunteer on the pile at Ground Zero — firefighters, police officers, EMTs, regular joes — are still affected by the tragedy. They suffer from lung disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. ABC News reports that 7 out of 10 first responders have severe lung illnesses, and many of those heroes lack proper care and health insurance to meet their medical needs.

The events of September 11th are so very tragic, and they continue to haunt American workers to this day. (The firefighter who retires because he can’t walk up a flight of stairs. The office worker who coughs non-stop and can’t breathe without the assistance of canned oxygen.) We need a new movement in America to provide universal health care coverage, improved worker’s rights, and better working conditions. What better way to honor those who died on 9/11 and continue to be impacted by the toxic dust than to christen September 11th as the New Labor Day.

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