Mayor Bloomberg: 9/11 FDNY Firefighters Deserve Rehabilitation, not Termination
Zero Tolerance Part Two: Judicial Recommendations Being Ignored
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Ms. Locke, I am truly outraged by this horrific and inaccurate cartoon. The brave men and women that work for the FDNY, the greatest fire department in the world, were greatly affected by the tragic events on 9/11. There is an overwhelming amount of resources available to whoever needs it, as there should be. However, if a man or woman reports to duty under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they will (and should be) terminated. They can ask for help before they begin their tour and receive it. Would you like to be the person to call the family of a firefighter who is injured or killed because one of their fellow firefighters was under the influence and caused harm? What about the family member of a child that couldn’t be saved because the firefighter was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics? I am a big believer in rehabilitation Ms. Locke, but when a person reports to duty under the influence, zero tolerance is a must. The fact that you put my father in the same cartoon as Osama Bin Laden is preposterous. I know that not a day has passed in the last ten years that my father has not remembered and lamented over the tragedy of 9/11.This cartoon is a disgrace.
Dear Ms Cassano,
Thank you for your comment. I certainly agree with you that firefighters should not be reporting to duty under the influence of alcohol or drugs. To the best of my knowledge, and the testimony I have read, the terminated firefighters under discussion were self-medicating while off-duty. These firefighters experienced unprecedented trauma on 9/11 as well as the emotional aftermath of extraordinary levels of grief. This, added to the levels of stress that their profession considers “normal,” was too much for some. When one of those heroes has a breakdown, if he makes a mistake and seeks to self-medicate in order to deal with the stress of his job, if he chooses to try to maintain his sense of heroic machismo rather than admit to his weakness and seek help, why is this seen as a criminal act deserving of immediate termination, instead of evidence of a job-related mental health problem?
What disturbs me most greatly, Ms. Cassano, is that these terminations were carried out in spite of the fact the judges who heard the cases recommended these firefighters NOT be terminated. They stated these men had suffered enough of a nightmare, and I quote one judge: “It is shocking to the conscience to deny this firefighter his pension on the basis of one failed drug test…” The judicial process exists to determine who is a recreational drug abuser and who is suffering a job related mental health problem. Can you explain to me why this judicial input is being ignored?
I have made numerous requests since 2010 asking the Commissioner to explain this blatant disregard of the judges’ decisions. I have received no answer beyond a “we appreciate your comments” letter from the Deputy Commissioner, and that was 8 months ago. I sent your father a petition with 1150 signatures from people all over the world protesting the Zero Tolerance Policy, for which I received no response. Can you imagine how frustrating this is? (Signatures now at 1546 and climbing.)
Being an elected official obligates one to use their power wisely as well as take criticism from the public. You object to a cartoon of your father for a decision he made that I believe is wrong. I can understand that. So hopefully you can understand my similar level of upset at the vilification of the firefighters that made a decision the FDNY thinks is wrong. This imagery has clearly hurt you, as his daughter, and for that I am truly sorry. But our firefighters are hurting, too. Many have commented to me that your father “forgot” where he came from, up through the ranks.
Your father will not lose his job or his pension or have his life completely disrupted because of this drawing. Terminated firefighters can’t so easily slough off the career-ending humiliation they are now suffering and don’t deserve. I believe it is a disgrace that we have turned our backs and ruined the lives of these men who were there for us at our darkest hour. And every time an American suffers as a result of the aftermath of 9/11, or we squabble amongst each other rather than working together, yes, I believe Osama bin Laden would be happy to hear it.
I have met your father several times and found him quite personable. However, he is now in a position where he bears the responsibility of actions that affect many men I care about. I am quite certain he can handle whatever I send him in his capacity as the Commissioner, and you can tell him from me, it’s not personal. But I have to do what I believe is right. I will not rest until these terminations are overturned and these firefighters receive the pensions and healthcare they earned. So many fire departments across the country have an “Employee Assistance Program” to help firefighters who experience a “bump” in their careers because of accumulated stress. Why can’t the FDNY have one, too?
I hope you can answer some of the questions I have put forth in this letter. Thank you again for writing.
I am one of the terminated firefighters who was fired for zero tolerance and I was first on the scene on 9/11..I lost my pension and a job I loved because of how I tried to manage my ptsd with alcohol ..nobody in the fdny helped me my life is ruined and nothing matters to me anymore
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