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Warren Smokey Thomas and Eddy Almeida

The darkness of tragedy is overcome by the light of ordinary heroism

One U.S. and one American flag fly side-by-side against the backdrop of an office building
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9/11 is one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments that is seared in our collective and individual memories. Many monumental events have happened since then, and far more Americans have died from COVID-19, but nothing can compare with 9/11 for sheer shock and horror. 

But the two events share this: They changed the world, and their effects will continue to be felt in our everyday lives for a long time to come. 

They also reinforce the vital role public services play. It was front-line public service workers who were recognized as the heroes – because they did their “ordinary” work under extraordinary circumstances. We need to underscore their work – not just when disaster strikes, but whenever right-wing politicians and think-tanks try to minimize their importance, cut funding or hand them over to profiteers. 

We only have to look at the notoriously higher rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths in privately operated long-term care facilities, compared to publicly run ones, to see what happens when profits are put before people. 

The pandemic will be on the minds of everyone commemorating 9/11 this year. In light of these two disasters, we hope and pray U.S. politicians and electors will finally put aside their differences and work together to strengthen lifesaving public services, and recognize the need for public, universal health care, so the next disaster will not find Americans so unprepared. 

On September 11, we turn our thoughts to the victims and the loved ones they left behind, including at least two dozen Canadians who died in the attacks. We are all inspired by the sense of duty and solidarity that galvanized public sector workers to heroism 19 years ago – and continues to do so today. 

In solidarity, 

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU President 
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer