Just passing the six year mark of the 9-11 terrorist attack in NYC, brings back to mind some of the devastation and heart ache we, as Americans suffered not so very long ago. Although it has been six years, in our hearts, the pain is sometimes as fresh as just the other day. There were so many innocent lives lost, and not all of them directly from the attack. Many lives were lost, during the rescue and excavation attempts as well. The many firefighters that responded as quickly as they were able to respond, saved numerous more lives that could have raised the death toll, that sad day. It is these firefighters that we turn our attention to now since many of them were women. Not once during the interviews and picture taking have I seen a female firefighter being addressed. Perhaps I have watched all the wrong channels, or read all the wrong newspapers. Just once I would like to make sure credit is given where credit is due.
The women at Ground Zero, as well as women everywhere that have embraced firefighting, regardless of it being mostly a "man's world" have still to be recognized for their exemplary bravery as well as their untold sacrifices. Unknown to most people, women have been involved in firefighting for the past 200 years. That alone calls for attention, added to the fact that during World War II, the firefighting world was predominantly women, due to the fact that it was actually a necessity. Suffice it to say, when needed, women stand to take up the slack, and with the men off fighting the war, the women stood and took their places as bravely as the men.
The first recorded female firefighter was Molly Williams, a slave in New York and from there on, women found their way into the fire departments and stood hand in hand with the men there, and working side by side to help save lives in whatever capacity arose. Too many fallen and wounded women have gone unnoticed. Most people are not even aware there are women firefighters, let alone ones that make a difference. These women are not just ordinary firefighters; some of them hold positions in command and carry their titles proudly. Where does this leave us today? Strong, brave, and true. Women everywhere are picking up the banner to support women firefighters, and keep them from fading into complete obscurity. The number of women firefighters continues to soar. Here in the United States, they claim 30 - 40, 000 in numbers. That number is far too large to not attract attention, but apparently there is no one interested in bringing it to light. That leaves it up to us to educate the younger generations, as well as the world today, about the women in firefighting. If we don't do it, who will? For women, it is merely an act of coming full circle, they give life to their children, and save lives as well.
In some cases, the women that have bravely entered into firefighting, their jobs are a daily battle for them. Some of them suffer sexual harassment almost daily, as well as not being recognized as a competent firefighter. For some it has been an uphill battle, but they have fought long and hard to pave the way for those that might come behind, and perhaps make the road a bit easier to follow. They have fought against work place discrimination, improper gear and uniforms, as well as equal rights and opportunities. It is highly doubtful we will ever hear all of the stories that they have suffered through, but the ones we have heard make enough of an impact to give the desire to spread the word. No longer are the women in firefighting unseen and unheard, and we will no longer allow them to operate as unsung heroes.