This, our first post, should not be misread or misinterpreted as somehow us trying to separate the women from the men. It is not about that nor will this site ever be about that. Rather, it is an opportunity for us to do our very small part in contributing to historic accuracy and to tell you about the thousands of first responder Women You Should Know in a single post, through the inspirational stories of a few.
With the launch date of Women You Should Know set around September 11, 2011, we wanted to take this opportunity and platform to recognize and reflect on the 10 year anniversary of one of the most decisive days in American history. We felt the best way to do that would be to honor and recognize all of the emergency services workers who responded to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center that day and in the days following. Within the context of the Women You Should Know world, we wanted to focus on the women. The only problem with this was that we didn’t know, for sure, if there were any women first responders. Yes, we agree, that it might seem like an odd question to ask, “were there even any women there?” But, as none of us could recall seeing any news coverage or pictures of women firefighters, police officers, EMTs, FBI agents, etc. connected to 9/11, we started doing some research.
Search after search led us basically nowhere. There would be small nuggets here and there, but nothing comprehensive, nothing concrete. We suddenly found ourselves confronted with an implausible 21st century scenario. According to estimates taken for the City of New York, there were as many as 91,000 people who took part in the initial search and rescue and subsequent 10-month cleanup at the World Trade Center disaster site. Even if women made up only a very small percentage (we’re guessing) of that 91,000, there still would have been a large number of women there. A large enough number to be noticed, right? But, women seemed to have gone missing from almost every account we read or viewed about this very dark part of our country’s history. We knew that there were women in all branches of emergency services – FDNY, NYPD, EMS, FBI, FEMA, the Armed Forces, etc. So, we kept asking ourselves, “Where were they all on 9/11?”.
At long last, we had our answer and found the women (well, at least 30 of them), when a search led us to the book Women at Ground Zero, written by Susan Hagen – an award winning nonfiction writer and writing teacher, a former news journalist, and a retired firefighter/EMT – and Mary Carouba – a writer, educator, public speaker, and advocate for social justice and positive change.
Women at Ground Zero, is a powerful collection of first-person stories told by 30 female firefighters, police officers, paramedics, EMTs, and others who responded to the World Trade Center tragedy on September 11, 2001. According to the authors’ website, Hagen and Carouba wrote the book in response to the media’s portrayal of rescue workers as “firemen, policemen, brothers” and “our brave guys”. They pooled their credit cards and set out for Manhattan shortly after the World Trade Center attack to find and interview women rescue workers and tell their stories. Despite the fact that they had no contacts, no press credentials, and knew no one in New York City, Hagen and Carouba were determined to find these women and include them in the national conversation about the heroes of 9/11.
Through the book we came to discover that three women first responders died in the line of duty on 9/11 – NYPD Officer Moira Smith, Port Authority of NY/NJ Police Captain Kathy Mazza, EMT with MetroCare Ambulance Service Yamel Merino. Another fact that most people sadly don’t know.
We want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba for writing this book, which is an important historical document.
We also want to say thank you to all of the first responders – women and men alike – who gave so tirelessly and bravely of themselves that day and in the days following to keep the rest of us safe. You are all heroines and heroes.
To those women and men who made the greatest sacrifice of all that day, there are no words to properly express the enormous gratitude and respect we have for you and for your families. May your memories serve as a shining example of the very best that America is.