September 11 is an emotional day for everyone, in both the mortal and immortal worlds. I was still a pup, two months past my first birthday, on that terrible day. My parents were working. Blake and I were asleep in our bedroom, oblivious to what was happening 200 miles to the south. When our parents got home, we knew something terrible had occurred.
Our parents took us to the state mental hospital across the street from our condo. It was a beautiful day, the sky a vivid blue. Blake and I began our walk, scampering over the green grass, and we both turned to give our parents broad smiles, and for just a few seconds, everything was okay.
Every year, at Rainbow Bridge, we hold a remembrance ceremony to mark that horrible day. There are several speakers, some who became eternal angels that day, some who were already here, and explained how the immortal world shook as it expanded to welcome so many new souls, and some who worked Ground Zero looking in vain for any surviving humans.
They are all at the Bridge now. Every dog who ran into the buildings, or searched for remains, has become immortal.
The last 911 dog to cross the Bridge was Bretagne who lived 16 years and arrived in 2016. He was our guest speaker. He looked out at the assembled angels both, dogs, and humans, and began.
“Today we honor the dogs who worked so hard to help the victims of the 911 attacks. They are now all here, and they may be luckier than the humans left behind.
“Those first responders, who ran into the fire or worked on the heap for months searching for remains and removing debris, have developed cancer at an alarming rate. No wonder, since over 400 tons of asbestos was used to build the Twin Towers, and all of it turned to dust, that was inhaled by the workers.
“The human Congress, after a long fight, established the 911 Victims Compensation Fund to pay for the medical expenses of those first responders who developed cancer and other medical problems after the attacks. Each year more people have filed claims after being diagnosed, and the VCF has to be increased, which leads to fighting in Congress This past year the number of claimants has risen by 36% as almost 35,000 more cases were filed. Also, sadly, the number of deceased claims from families who lost someone who worked at Ground Zero nearly doubled to 720 from last year.
“I know humans have things they don’t want to pay taxes for, planned parenthood on one side of the aisle, a wall on the other side of the aisle, but does anyone want to say to my colleagues who worked in a literal death pit filled with asbestos for months searching for trace matters of people so their relatives would have something to bury, that they cannot have their medical expenses paid, or be compensated for the salaries of loved ones who are too sick to work, or worse, have crossed over? Yet every time the fund needs to be increased the number of nay votes grows. If I or any other dog who worked at Ground Zero was sick, or in a shelter, people who gladly send us money. Not that I am complaining but why do people treat dogs better than humans?
“88,484 first responders have registered with the World Trade Center Health Fund, and of that group 10,000 have cancer. That number grows every day. The period from exposure to asbestos to becoming sick is up to 16 years so the butcher’s bill will be due soon. It is estimated that every three days someone, either a first responder, a survivor, a person who lived in the area, a volunteer, or a member of the trade union died from World Trade Center-related illnesses.
“2,996 people died during the 911 terrorist attacks, but that isn’t the final number, it grows weekly. We say never forget but why have so many of the survivors been forgotten.”
Bretagne stepped away from the podium, saluted the flag, and lay down on the green grass. He mortal work may be done, but he is still trying to save humans.
He is a figure for us all to emulate and we must not forget the brave colleagues who worked with him and are now suffering.