The Real Difference

The Real Difference 

Between Police, Firefighters, Sanitation, Nursing and EMS

It takes a special person to be a first responder. There is a great deal of real danger involved in a job where a person is asked to drive and run towards an emergency that the majority of people are running away from. We compensate first responders for the readiness for that danger. In the case of EMTs and Paramedics, the city and state have basically refused to. The difference between an EMS provider and a Cop or Firefighter is not the risk involved, as Mayor DeBlasio has claimed. The real difference is rooted in demographics and failure of the EMS workers to unite and engage in industrial action as a unified group.

The New York City Council has just passed a non-binding resolution calling for parity with Police and Fire. We need to organize and lobby for such legislation to bear fruit.

EMS is a fully diverse service, the majority of which is composed of Blacks and Latinos from the city’s most underserved districts. Its members and officers are over ⅓ female with many openly gay, including the FDNYs EMS Bureau top Chief Lillian Bonsignore. Muslims, Asians, Jews and new immigrants make up a large percentage of the workforce. Approximately 13,500 Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics divided in four sectors and over 100 responding agencies, the FDNY being the largest unified group of 4,300.

But the real difference lies in three distinct variables. EMS daily saves human lives. EMS turns a huge profit. EMS is overwhelmingly people of color.

The real “difference” between EMS and all other services is that we are actually worth way more, though we have been bullied and self censored from declaring it. Everyone says “the very worst enemy we have is ourselves”. There is always some truth to that statement. But, we also have a great deal of actual external opposition to our call for parity and justice. Pushing against our members are an array of powerful actors that by action and inaction purposefully block our progress to parity. 

That opposition can be isolated into the following groupings. The FDNY Management, the Firefighters Union, Hospital Management, the Nursing Unions, the ownership of all private ambulance companies, the political establishment of the City and State, the current Mayor DeBlasio and very importantly our own unions which perpetuate the status quo through a “management of expectations”.  With the exceptions of FDNYs 2507/3621 and the IAEP/SEIU none of the other unions are actually dedicated to or specialized for EMS workers. In the end we are divided amid nine separate unions each negotiating for limited possibilities.

Of course the nurses, firefighters, cops and sanitation workers are completely essential. Vital and important. If not for all those heroes, and we don’t say that tongue in cheek, the city would probably come undone. Of course each of their unions and PR machines would like to sweep away the memory of the times each went on strike, repeatedly over the years. The Nurses of NYP, Montefiore and Mt. Sinai NYSNA nurses with start pay around $97,000 voted to go on strike just last year. Time and time again our heroes paralyzed the city and threatened the lives of New Yorkers for exactly the kind of normative middle class wages and benefits we in EMS are asking for today. Of course EMS would never go on Strike for so many different reasons. Most importantly because people might actually die. But make no mistake every other group of heroes has put their economic well being before their service to the city at some point or another, repeatedly.

Nurses are the integral workhorses of the entire Healthcare system.  Like a Nurse, EMS members need to understand concepts of medicine and are supervised by a doctor. In some precise ways our Paramedic skill set is on the practical level is above the  level of a nurse. Nurses definitely do not intubate people or interpret EKGs, or administer medication autonomously. Nurses work very, very hard, but they do so in controlled situations with a great deal of supervision, guidance and support. During a 1998 nurses strike at Maimonides Hospital Paramedics were used in the ER, with beyond adequate performance. The Nursing unions would like to make sure we are never allowed in an ER again. The nurses unions quite actively work to prevent any clear bridge from Paramedic to RN or PA because it would lead to a realization that people paid half what they make, with a different  background can do their job just as well on the ground. When people start whispering about an ambulance strike, which is also against the law, people say “So cruel, selfish and nearly evil, people could die.” But a nursing strike seems to be as American as apple pie. Could it be that in all the previous Nursing strikes, no one died, no one sued? That was because even higher paid nurses were bussed in to temp for them. 

“Without the Department of Sanitation a plague would overtake this city. Or at the very least trash would pile up high, the city would stink and rats would have field day.”

Like a Sanitation worker, EMS members operate a large vehicle in cumbersome urban traffic and all weather conditions, with near total disregard from the public, especially in the Bronx. We must get through the streets making pickups while the public blocks streets with their cars, darts in front of our vehicles and basically flip out when a street is blocked for an emergency. Like sanitation, we have to lift and carry,  albeit not in a rapid repetition. Sanitation doesn’t have to carry 125 Ibs of equipment up six flights of stairs and carry down people around 250 pounds or more. In some ways, like sanitation, a pause in delivery of service will potentially cost lives. Like when Sanitation went on strike during the Blizzard of 2010. “New York’s Strongest used a variety of tactics to drag out the plowing process — and pad overtime checks — which included keeping plows slightly higher than the roadways and skipping over streets along their routes.” Although the Department of Sanitation has a logo somewhat similar to EMS, and is engaged in a vital part of public health, they have regularly blackmailed the city with strikes and slowdowns. The DSNY went on Strike for 9 days in 1968. In the DSNY today after 5½ years, the salary jumps to an average of $88,616 dollars. They have a 20 and out pension.

Like Nurses, EMS members practice medicine. Like Sanitation workers we pick things up and we put them down. But EMS isn’t at the educational level of an RN or engaged in the physical rigor of a Sanitation worker. Parity is thus pegged to Cops and Firefighters. The two most similar jobs,  we basically share a navy blue uniform with and see them on the majority of our calls.

The real difference between Cops, Firefighters and EMS is not only $50,000 in wage disparity, but in what we all actually do on the job. As well as the physical and mental toll it takes to constantly be around death, dying, sickness and trauma. What our job actually results in, not theoretically, is a daily struggle to keep people from dying. A daily struggle to promote health and wellness. The police protect a system of law and order. The firefighters protect property. EMS protects human life and well being.

The police spend the vast majority of their careers fighting quality of life crime and taking reports.  111 NYPD officers were killed on duty between 1980 and 2010. Another way to think of that is 4 per year. A total of 331 NYPD employees have died in the line of duty since 1950, 5 per year. Deaths peaked in 2001, when 23 officers died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but the effects are still being felt today. 206 NYPD officers have died from 9/11-related illnesses, which are separate from the 331 officers who died in the line of duty. Police work is still on the 16th most dangerous American job, but decreasing in the number of deaths and injuries per year.

The job of the Police department is “to be a deterrent to crime and enforce the laws”. Statistically speaking they do not get in that many fire fights and they also do not save that many lives directly, except in a noble indirect way by keeping human tribalism and criminal instincts at bay. In 1971 the NYPD staged a Work Stoppage occuring for five days between January 14 and January 19, 1971, when around 20,000 New York City police officers refused to report for regular duty. While officers maintained that they would continue to respond to serious crimes and emergencies, they refused to carry out routine patrolling duties, leading in some cases, to as little as 200 officers being on the street in the city.

In 2014 the NYPD held a work “slowdown” for about seven weeks as political conflict between protesters, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s police unions intensified. Legally, police officers can’t strike, but for 7 weeks the NYPD arrested no one except in violent crimes. For the week of 22 December, citywide traffic tickets dropped 94% from the same period in 2013. Court summons for low-level offences, like public intoxication, also dropped 94%. Parking tickets were down 92%. Overall arrests were down 66%, as well. Nobody noticed.

Though their publicists and the writers of their many TV serials would like the general public to think they do save many lives, “get the bad guys off the streets” and risk their life every single day, they really don’t. Mostly they write reports, hand out quality of life crime related fines and make quota quality of life crime collars. To justify what amounts to a highly respectable middle class wage a Salary after 5 ½ years of  $85,292 which include holiday pay, longevity pay, uniform allowance, night differential and overtime, police officers may potentially earn over $100,000 per year. 

The public didn’t even notice the Police were on strike in 2014. It had almost no impact on violent crime or quality of life. It was as if their main job was needless fines and upholding a “broken windows theory” now widely discredited. But sometimes they do get executed in their squad car, they do get shot at by criminals and they do die. And while being a cop is hard work, it sure doesn’t directly keep people alive. It doesn’t seem to slow any link between quality of life crime and descent into anarchy and most importantly, quota based policing it has led to mass incarceration, illegal/unconstitutional racist methods of policing like “stop and frisk”, and contributed to the deaths of around 1,200 people of color in police custody or killed during arrest in America each year. 1 in 100 Americans are behind bars, on probation or parole.

The NYPD has a clear resentment to the FDNY Firefighters, who are paid more to do a lot less. 95% of FDNY calls do not involve the risk of actual fire fighting. 

The Firefighters after 5 ½ years earn around 110K, they have 20 and out pensions, they work 2 days a week and they have the enduring love and admiration of much of the public. 

As they should, because encountering flames in close quarters is dangerous and risky. Although it is something done mostly by volunteers across America and tens of thousands are on the FDNY waiting list. There is also a strange macho ideology called “interior attack” which worked its way into FDNY methodology, not used anywhere else in the country. Fighting fire inside a building of a working fire instead of dumping water on it from the outside. They proudly claim this is about “saving lives” but it is actually about endangering working class people to protect property. However, because of building codes and modern technology fires make up only 5% of their total call volume. 

The FDNY Firefighters have lost 421 members in line of duty deaths since 1980. 343 on 9/11 and 222 more of lung disease and exposure later. Adjusting this in the same way NYPD deaths are arranged, that is 10 deaths a year factoring out 9/11, that number would be 2 a year.

The International Association of Firefighters says cancer is now the leading cause of death among firefighters. While thirty years ago, firefighters were most often diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers, today the cancers are more often leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma, officials say.

On Nov. 6, 1973 for five and a half tense hours, most of the city’s 10,900 firemen (they were all men) picketed outside their firehouses or simply watched as some 80 fires burned citywide, chanting ”Scab! Scab!” at makeshift firefighting crews.

Today, 95% of the time the FDNY and fire houses across America respond to medical EMS type assignments. Engine company CFRs show up on priority 1 to 3 EMS jobs, just a little bit before the ambulances because they get the call 30 seconds before. The “enthusiasm” they have for battling combustion in the shadow of 9/11 is not translated into an enthusiasm for medical first aid. It is very well documented by now that firefighters leave calls without being released or even assessing patients, firefighters not giving even the most basic report before asking “if you guys got this” to EMS, as well as firefighters abandoning EMS crews before anyone even knew the status of the patient.

Firefighters do sometimes give oxygen and do CPR, in varying combinations of one or two hands, which is to say they don’t do it well a great deal of the time, they do give “lift assists” and they vary radically in level of respect by fire house. They do anything they can to get off the scene as fast as they can. Although they have around 48 hours of CFR training, and some of them are or were EMTs and Paramedics, they don’t ever take vitals. They rarely if ever give any meaningful reports. Then, they remain out of service for 30 to 40 minutes after the release of care. It is also very expensive to send 5 firefighters to participate in this insulting charade. By the hour the same cost would fully fund 4 or 5 entire BLS ambulances. Thus also ending the excuse of their wider geographic distribution.

During the Covid 19 Pandemic they were released of these responsibilities for the worst 2 weeks. For the next worst 4 weeks they slowed down and regularly abandoned EMS crews in the field. 

They had so much time on their hands they took to feeding nurses on television and turning out for the daily public clap. During the course of the pandemic over 30% of the FDNY went out sick. Over 1,000 EMS members and over 2,000 firefighters. The rapidly overwhelmed 911 system had to call in hundreds of the very same private ambulance EMS providers they so regularly denounce and make life difficult for on a  daily basis. That is because the FDNY was unable to manage the pandemic response, as it is unable to manage the normal daily call volume.

9/11 type terrorism, Superstorm Sandy or pandemics aside the FDNY only manages to staff ⅔ of the 911 ambulances. It’s EMS members resign after just 4 years from poor conditions and low wages. It is also the lowest paid 9/11 employer in the City of New York.

There are of course many very brave firefighters, no one begrudges them their good wages and benefits, but they don’t treat EMS workers very well, especially not the 4,300 FDNY EMS workers they share a uniform with. On every conceivable level of abandonment, FDNY firefighters use a combination of the 9/11 legacy and the leverage of their political weight to force an inefficient model of response on the taxpayer. We are literally paying for a loud and nearly useless show since there is no reason that 2 EMTs and 2 Paramedics and a Lieutenant with a Lucas automated compression device cannot manage a cardiac arrest. There is no reason to have 11,000 firefighters when 95% of the calls are EMS calls. There is no reason the FDNY cannot pay its members a living wage in their city.

The realization that our workforce is also a billion dollar operation means that not only do we get exploited, we are propping up the establishment which exploits us.

Parity is a justice whose time has come for people who serve this city. We deliver your babies, we bring back your dead, we carry your wounded off the bloody streets. We check on your grandparents, we bring the ER into the homes of the poorest and most vulnerable, we head to the fires with the firefighters, we careen with ungodly speed towards the shootings of police and gangsters alike. We are there when you are born and when you die. It takes an unknowable toll on our bodies, minds and souls.

Amongst ourselves we must defeat ethnic, garage, agency, union and sector tribalism. No single faction or group has enough members to win this fight. The cops, the firefighters, the nurses, the sanitation workers, the teachers and bus subway operators. They have all used their “essential nature” to bargain for better wages and workplace rights.

EMS will never strike. Because people will actually die, because every day in big and small ways we actually are simply essential. So we are left with two strategies moving ahead and we need to unite 13,500 strong around them. First, we need to tighten the belt, unite the ranks across all sectors and step up the hearts and minds game in all districts. Second, we need clear concise united demands backed up by escalation of industrial action.

If the City Council is allegedly now behind us on parity and the public knows how hard we grind for them before and after Covid 19. We must look our mayor,  managers, unions, institutions namely the FDNY Management, the Hospital Groups and the CEOS in the eyes. We need to say in one voice, “As long as there is blood in our eyes and there’s pain in our backs. As long as we can’t afford the good schools. When we can’t afford to live here and you are unwilling to help us advance our lives! We won’t turn our backs on the public ever, but we can hit you in the pockets. And the public will approve.”

Never forget that the price of one ambulance ride is billed from $724 to $4,000 and that our median wage is $18 an EMT and $25 a Paramedic per hour. Never forget that we do over 4,000 911 calls and 2,000 private calls per day. Never forget that we are completely essential. The time for Parity and Justice is now.

By Walter Adler | Paramedic 

What is to be Done in America? [P.2]

What is to be Done in America 

There is an uprising happening in the United States of America. It is the response to a brutish President and the irresponsible management of a pandemic, catalyzed by the televised lynching of a black man. To succeed in achieving real change, real justice this uprising will require a conscience and a soul. It must address on a structural level, as well as on a policy level ugly injustices of racist apartheid. It must at the same address glaring inequalities of wealth. Both between the American worker and the American Oligarch, but also the way American wealth and privilege has been built on the backs of black, brown, white and yellow labor exploited abroad.

So many terrible things happen in the world that the natural human reaction is to un-see, perhaps also to un-know and thus un-feel. But as the latest body count rises, as long ignored ugly truths play on repeat that position is irresponsible.

Did you know that just two months before the death of George Floyd an Emergency Medical Technician in Kentucky named Breonna Taylor was gunned down in her sleep in a botched no-knock Police raid. 

You might know that now, but at the time the Covid Pandemic drowned it out. Unconsciously on your phone and television you are fed happy, individualistic disinformation. Consciously, you make choices about what to spend your time on. Sports not history, porn not philosophy. Shopping not researching. Movies on a fantasy life you cannot probably lead and of course religion, promises of eternal paradise, but only when you die.

What you can know and what you can feel is on a highly manipulated spectrum in America. A product of a deliberate set of policies, multiple variations based on your class and skin tone and an elite consensus on how and who should run this country, and by default an empire.

What is perhaps still more shocking than the televised lynching of an African American is the strange quiet that accompanies the deaths of over 120,000 highly vulnerable Americans from Covid-19. The majority will be proven to be people of color ill served by long defunded health systems, living in the various ghettos of America, as well as the elderly abandoned to places that deliver neither nursing, or a home.

Despite rage and rhetoric, this was not the first and will not be the last series of lynching of a person of color in America. It will hopefully last time hundreds of thousands will die because of their race and their class deemed the second, third, fourth and fifth class citizens by public policy.

Not to mince words, all the many material comforts, relative security and general prosperity this nation enjoys is built on four highly uncomfortable truths that exist outside the written law.

Assailing an individual pillar of the Ziggurat will not result in real system change. Each pillar is holding up a vast injustice which capitalizes on the apathy and inaction of the American people.

  • The first pillar is an ongoing violent hegemony imposed on most other nations abroad that we all subsidize with our taxes. The result being a trade in working class American military lives abroad for an above average European quality of life and our own imperial ambitions. 800 bases in 70 foreign nations are there to enforce the economic prosperity of the United States. 
  • The second pillar is an extra legal system of racial apartheid that in fairly obvious terms places a tiny group of ultra wealthy Euro-American oligarchs on the very top. Supporting the architecture of that system is a skilled professional and technical class mostly of Whites, Asians (6%) and Jews (1.7%). A majoritarian mass of White European settler descents as an imagined “Middle Class” (59.1% of population), a Latino/Hispanic labor class below it (18.3%), a largely subjugated the African descent reserve menial labor population (13.4%) and the remanent of the Native Indian population (1.5%). The lack of legal segregation and legislation to support Apartheied by no means prevents it from operating as such a system.
  • The third pillar is the  popular rejection of “class consciousness”, where strangely most of the nation works almost their entire life believing they are a part of the “Middle Class“. 
  • The Fourth Pillar is that this political system is not a democracy, your vote really does not matter. The two party system is a large expensive game of special interests making enormous campaign contributions that allow access to create new laws advantageous to corporations.

Americans have been systematically directed through low levels of education (under 30% have a college education) and inoculated by our mass media and hyper-materialistic consumer culture to basically reject a class analysis of modern poltical events.

Most Americans do not have the interest or formal education to even be aware of the full extent of violent interventions the nation is currently engaged in directly or by proxy. The majority of our people are too busy, kept constantly working Our entire lives.

  • Through Mass Incarceration and Racialized Aggressive Policing generations of people of color were disenfranchised, households broken up and large swaths of the population reduced to a below minimum wage captive labor pool.
  • Through grossly inadequate social services entire neighborhoods were ghettoized and reduced to cheap domestic labor reserves that we call “the  Ghettos and Barrios”.
  • Through the relative high material comfort available to virtually all classes of Americans most people tolerate the system as it stands. No one starves in the streets of America by choice. We have Regressive Welfare for the poor and Amazon Prime for the Middle Class or anyone that can afford it. 

If you set the bar very low and others reinforce your low objective for validation, then it may actually seem like progress. Daily demonstrations increased the charges on the officers who killed George Floyd, led to the tearing down of Confederate Statues, the Cosplay of the Seattle Autonomous Zone and a mainstream debate on “defunding the police.

That optimism is unfounded as this is not a real set of emerging victories. These are token expressions of first amendment rights inside a well contained system, a pressurized cage for acceptable dissent.

But when you have no real historical context for your valid righteous anger and when you have no way to achieve a true majority (African Americans, their actu allies and White liberals if and when combined do not constitute even 50% of this country’s electorate), you will just march in a very large circle within the confines of your glass ceiling and soft cage.

Paired nicely with over 160,000 and rising Covid-19 deaths, two months of varying lockdowns the now daily marches of mostly peaceful protesters is exactly the kind of acceptable dissent this nation will tolerate. Endless marches that are in fact a theater. A game for the unemployed, under employed and college students. But the game has pre-rigged rules. Dissidents will be data based with facial recognition software, no physical space will be allowed to be occupied for long, and no matter what rhetorical games liberal Democrats and progressives play with Police Budgets. The economic order will not change. The two Party Plutocracy will not yield. The legalized bribery of campaign finance will not be reformed.

Here we can look well at Modern American history lessons:

  • There is no credible American left, but there is a large and well armed libertarian right.
  • Organized Labor is thuggish, conservative, largely discredited and is less than 10.3% of the workforce.
  • There is not a unified African American or Latino/Hispanic voting or buying block. Demographically neither ethnic group is large enough to force a major policy shift.
  • If a public space or building is occupied or any property is threatened then the iron heel of the state will come down hard and fast.
  • If a Black Messiah arises he or she will be killed. 
  • If a collective rebel leadership emerges, they will be imprisoned, murdered or discredited by the 17 agencies of state repression we know exist.
  • If organized labor is radicalized it will be forcibly disbanded.
  • If you talk about “class” and talk about “robust publicly funded social programs” they will discredit you as “Communist“.
  • If a movement ever effectively combines demands for racial and economic justice it will be made public enemy number one.
  • Pre-2020 Uprising there was already the highest prisoner to population ratio on earth, 1 in 147 citizens and 1 in 8 black men.

If the following elements of a Resistance and Solution process are not put in place immediately all the demonstrations and countless deaths will be for nothing. They will not enact the change we need. This uprising will fail like all the ones before it. This is not tactical advocacy. It is one of strategy, alignment of vision and  of an anti-necessitarian ideology— i.e. it is democratic, and confederalist. It has fusion elements of both the left and the right.

  1. We have to end all Special Interest Campaign Financing, lower wages of politicians and publicly fund all campaigns ending the mockery of American legalized, formalized bribery.
  1. We have to leglislatively challenge Class and Ethnic Discrimination in all social services.
  1. We have to lower funding for the Police, Prisons, Corrections, Intelligence services and the Military.
  1. We have to raise funding massively on Health, Education, Housing and Infrastructure.
  1. We must form new poltical Parties that actually represent American Workers and the American Working Class.
  1. We must acknowledge an American Apartheid and see it fully defeated. We must acknowledge a race-class discrimination where certain citizens gain better opportunities, jobs, schools, hospitals and lives based on their identity.
  1. We must acknowledge that oppression or discrimination against any identity constitutes a crime against us all as society, but there is a heirarchy of oppression and protecting the most vulnerable communities is a responsibility for all.
  1. There must be a National Service System created mandatory to all citizens age 18 to 21, through such a service we will create national unity, rebuild the nation, staff the civil services/military and reward our young people with free college educations and free healthcare.
  1. We must Naturalize every person currently residing in our country and create a more just system for immigration.
  1. We must must ensure a Democratic Meritocracy based on real ability not wealth and private connections to prevail in this country. To that end we should nationalize all schools, universities, health faculties and not allow private privilege to reign. The national service will be all citizens road to a equality of health and education placing all groups on even footing to begin their careers. 
  1. We must end our overseas imperialism and interventionist activities. We must shut down the majority of our overseas military bases, abolish all treaties committing us to the defense of foreign nations including Europe and Israel. We must embrace a multilateral world and focus our spending on domestic self reliance.
  1. We must end a degrading and regressive welfare machine that perpetuates backwardness, dependency and multi generational poverty. We must replace it with a safety net that protects the vulnerable and reintegrates the poor back into livelihoods with dignity.
  1. We must align our economic production to environmentally sustainable practices and make large scale policy level adjustments to prevent further environmental degradation.
  1. We must amend our constitution to reflect the norms of international Human Rights Law.

The Way Forward is not found in the history books and comes not from the left or right, these are antiquated and disproven political positions.

The Liberals and Conservatives of the Democratic and Republican Parties have already discredited themselves with this two party charade which is in reality a Corporate Oligarchy of two flavors

Certainly we have no use for radical extremism, mass violence, theocratic backwardness and no use at all for grand social experiments. Such things only unleash misery, atrocity, endless repression and expansionist war. 

We should be able to fully recognize the violence humans have the capability to unleash and cruelty we are capable of. The History of humanity is a blood bath, especially during state collapse, civil warfare or unaccountable utopian experimentation.

We require one or many Working Class parties to be fully committed to dismantling a racist white supremacy.

We require Democratic Autonomy to be the foundation of all social organization.

We require so-called Human Rights to be made binding on this nation at home and its actions abroad.

What is to be done in the United States of America? A fast fading empire, a powder keg of racial and poltical conflict ready to blow? Will we turn inward and isolationist? Will we once again put a facade of paint on colonial manor and call it by a new name? The sea is rising. The virus is a taste of things to come. The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were the latest on a very long list of casualties. One Party offers you a billionaire real estate tycoon, a frend of pedophiliac and a rapist, a thief and thug. Another Party offers you a crappy, senile old man, a hang over from the last presidency. And there is no third option.

It doesnt matter if they put on a populist democratic socialist face, a gay female, a Latina progressive face. It doesn’t matter at all. This is a White Supremacist Settler slave state. This is an Oligarchy. The quality of life here is based on exploiting fully people all over the world. 

What is to be done is to connect the dots, unite the factions and develop the resolve to fight. Begin drawing the connection between exploited labor, racial apartheid and Oligarchy masquerading as “Democracy.”

Only the renunciation of a systematic privilege for European descendants will result in Emmancipation for all people and an actual equality before the law. 

Only the realization that we are workers and our labor makes other men rich, that we will work until we die; only when we see fellow humans and not racist paradigms of division and hate; only then will we realize that somewhere between bullets and ballots there is a middle road to our freedom. Only then the restoration of a Republic whose liberty has been based on others long term suffering, on pretty words alone, can ever be really free.

Then collective action will begin, the veil of hypocrisy must be torn off, our privileges relinquished and “American Exceptionalism” will then be a reflection of an actual muti-ethnic democracy, that actually upholds the high minded values it espouses and is in the world a force for a greater good, not a predator, not a violator not a thief.

I do not attempt to appeal to your guilt, hope, shame, ego, self interest, ideals or your patriotism. I ask you to draw your motivation from what you see before your eyes. Atrophy, injustice and apathetic glut existing right alongside pandemic death and state sponsored murder.

What is to be done in America? Unite the working class and defeat white supremacy. Just another socialist scheme to fight for human rights? Or something this country was founded to inevitably be strong enough to achieve. 

A Preamble on Justice [P.1]

A Preamble on Justice (Pamplet One), Democratic Confederalist Papers

We will tell you now, what is wrong with this world and our country! No matter what country that it is we are addressing. 

It is that you the people believe in yourselves more than you believe in each other. You believe you are in this world alone.

The fate of the individual has ground under iron heel even the faintest notion of the collective good. And rat racing, pitiless individualism has robbed us as a collective people of both our human conscience as well as our “duty to act”.

There are rights we all have: Women, Men and Children that are ours by virtue of being born human.

No deity nor national charter bestowed them. When either a religion or the state fails to secure these rights, then these institutions cease to be of value. They become a danger. Both the state system and the ideas of every existing religion present clear and present threats to human rights.

The states by trampling them or failing to enforce them. Religions by explicitly negating womens’ role in the world, sanctioning violence to non believing minorities and promising a “world of plenty and paradise” in a world you will never live to see, and no one has ever come back from.  

The virtuous justice of the “world to come” must be palpable, must be tangible, must be established by a happiness, prosperity and security in the living world, the world of the real.

The authority by which we or any other member of a Party of resistance compels you, a civilian to “take hold of your rights” comes only from the hearts and minds of other women and men just like you. We hold up no religious gospel or ideological flag. These rights for many decades were put to paper, signed by the nations and then out right ignored by all existing governments.

Let us reiterate what you may already know. It is in fact in every country too hard to feed one’s family. It is too hard to own the roof over one’s head even in nations where television and popular mythology lead some to believe the “streets are paved in gold”. Landlords exploit us and workers grind to the bone in every single nation. The governments of all “safe and civilized Northern nations” currently disparage and despise the immigrant while the natives seem to have forgotten completely the exodus and plight from which their family once fled.

The time to even speak of pacifism has passed.    

We believe deeply in cutting the knees out from under each and every tyrant and local Oligarchy who together bleed and rape over half the nations of this earth. But in all the numerous wars fought, has a single human right ever been advanced or championed? Were not all these “Great Wars”, “Crusades”, “Jihads”, “Revolutions” and the World Wars 1, 2 and 3 (the so-called  Cd War) all just highly bloody contests to control the resources below and above the soil, to dispose of an excess working class and to compel foreigners to the economic bondage of some great power?     

Progress is wholly unequal and justice has become a perversion. Rights are worth the paper they are printed on.

Governments have sent millions of young people to die, maim and get maimed, kill and get killed for nothing other than a cold hard national ambition. The local Oligarchy of a time, using the state system for naked conquest. Channeling nationalism into mass theft, environmental devastation and ongoing bloodletting.

The many Crusades and Jihads were about the control of religious oligarchy, the Oligarchy of the priests and imams. The World Wars were European, Russian, American and Japanese bids for hegemony and empire; “control of the Core”. They didn’t stop fascist dictators from engaging in further atrocity as long as they were proclaimed anti-communist. Neither the Communist nor the  Capitalist nor the Third World ideologues built us better worlds. The wealth and options of the North West are built on the exploitation of the rest. The World System and Globalization itself is built on raw inequality, the trampling of human life outside the Core. They built up the very instruments of terror we now oppose. Massive armies of spy surveillance, state torture, nuclear war and armies that if unleashed will finish off the earth. 

We present a clear indictment of the current state system. 


War is still rampant. It is just more diffuse and costs less white lives. It is now a time of small wars, non-state insurgent, low tech and proxy warfare. Driven by the great power intelligence services, Sunni Jihadists, criminal cartels, student movements and Maoist rebels the annual body count of over 35 Small Wars, is quite gruesome. Major conflict of some kind exists in the following nations; in Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Mexico and the Democratic Republic of Congo claim over 10,000 lives a year. 

In Turkey (PKK and Maosist Insurgencies), Iraq, Somalia, Kenya, the Maghreb Insurgency (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia), in the Boko Haram Insurgency (Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger Chad), in Sudan and South Sudan 1,000 to 10,000 lives lost a year.

In the Kasmir (India v. Pakistan), the Naxalite Insurgency (India), in Israel and Palestine, Donbass War in Ukraine (Ukraine v. Russia), in Myanmar (Karen, Kachina, Rohingya ethnic conflicts), Insurgency in Balochistan( Iran v. Pakistan), in Thailand, in the Catatumbo Campaign (Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela), Moro Conflict/ Communist Insurgency (Philippines), the Kyber Conflict (Pakistan), CAR, Egypt, and the Islamist Insurgency in Mozambique all claim between 100 and 1,000 casualties a year.

Low burning conflicts are occuring in Iran (PJAK Kurds and Khuzestan Arab), Xinjiang Conflict China (State against Uyghers), India (Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur regions), Indonesia (West Papua Conflict), Cabinda Conflict (Angola), Peru (Internal), Lord’s Resistance Army Insurgency (Uganda, DRC, CAR, South Sudan), Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict (Azerbaijan vs. Armenia), the Dissident Irish Republican Campaign (Northern Ireland against UK), War in Darfur Sudan, Islamist terrorism in Pakistan (Punjab and Sindh), ongoing Chechen Separtism in Russia, the Sinai Insurgency in Egypt, Hezbollah’s Jihad against Israel and the Syrian Civil War spill over into Lebanon.

There is major civil unrest ongoing in Venezuela (CIA against State), Hong Kong (CIA against China) and the United States of America.


They have not ended slavery, they actually expanded it. They rebranded it, but it still retains the essence of complete bondage and subjugation, the degradation of a human into an animal,  a creature of brutal use. There are more forced sweat shop slaves, child slaves, harvesting slaves, mining slavea and sex slave workers and indentured sweatshop laborers than there ever were as plantation slaves or feudal serfs in the late 17th century. 

The North West didn’t ‘liberate women’ without completely objectifying them. In America 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted before age 18. 1 in every 147 Americans is in the penal system. The West has the gall to compare their advancements via armed struggle to be some how superior to those of the Monarchists, Fascists, Communists and Islamist Theocracy? These are all different brands of Oligarchy! The grinding logic of the world system depresses wages everywhere and makes humans a commodity, a resource to fully exploit.


Poverty is a rampant genocide. 7 in 10 people live below $5 a day. 4 in 10 below $2 a day and over 2 billion people, 2 of 8 billion live below $2 a day. Even in so-called wealthy, “Northern” nations most people work their entire lives, living to work and working to live. A human life expectancy of 120 has been brought below 50 in most nations on earth, even in the wealthy North West OECD most still die before 80, most black men will die by age 53.

Damn the Oligarchy for its callous dominance. Cruel indifference to human suffering, abuse of power and massive ongoing theft! Those who speaks in numbers and spread sheets while tens of millions starve or die of easily treatable diseases; and every year hundreds of thousands fall to rape, pillage and war while millions of woman lack control over their bodies and tens of millions remain slaves. Of course, every oligarchy sets up, benefits from a priesthood speaking of unseen God! God of Gods or spirits telling us to be patient, accept hard work, accept our rough lot; in the world to come all will be “amazing”. They also set up a modern priesthood of management for thought and public opinion. A media, many talking heads to explain the “hiccups” to universal progress.  

We tell these men damn their banal statistics, damn their intractable apathy, your failed policies and your unwillingness to move in the defense of the powerless. We will launch a war unlike any the world has seen. A war of workers, not blinded by made up races, invented cultures and unseen magic gods.

If naked you came to your country, than near naked you will depart. If bandit rapists drove you here or there, or a if some planned famine killed ¾ of your family before the rest died reroute of Cholera, or your came here or there shackled beaten and stolen in the belly of a ship; than you’d better damn never forget where you came from. There is not a safe zone, in “the North.” They will build even higher walls as the conditions on the ground worsen.

There is daily racist police violence, there is a technology of surveillance unlike anything in the past eras, an intractable relative poverty, and a plague of fever cough and death. When the world gets worse, and it has the potential to; the people of the North will build up even taller walls. With land mines and robot sentries.   

What is to be done when there is nowhere safe to run?

If the question is “what can be done”, the interlude then is who should do it where. The interesting thing about this paper is that we can give it as a speech in Cairo, Damascus or Jerusalem, Paris or London, Moscow or Beijing, Port-Au-Prince, Port of Spain or Kingston Town. When we speak in the local language, when we have fire in our eyes and sincere passion our hearts; then we earn their time as well as their ears too. 

People know that something has been broken for a long time. But after the grisly violence of the last hundred years, a direct product of a retrograde authoritarian Socialism clashing with a hypocritical republican order masquerading as Democracy; does anyone even trust ideology?

There are some pretty universal deficits when it comes to the global state of human rights, no one knows they have them. No one knows who grants them. They are a product of Enlightenment values, Socialist pressure and also,  common sense. They are a list of demands. They have already been written down in 39 separate United Nations documents. They are fully violated everywhere.

Because we are not interested in part freedoms, half freedoms, freedoms just on paper or any abridgment of these 58 noble rights enshrined in the halls of the United Nations and trampled everywhere else: we’d make a good wager that our message speaks as true in the Gaza as it does in the Gully.

What is to be done? What is the way forward? We need to demand that governments adopt these rights as laws, or we must bring every single government to its knees.

Who is the primary agent of change? 

We, all people.   

As Church, Mosque and State have all failed so colossally we must rise to repossess them. We must not replace a corrupt order, that of the Westphalian State System with a new corrupt order. Nearly every nation is an arbitrary creation; a plantation with a flag. States must become tools in the hands of humanity for justice and rights, not soothe saying witch doctors urging schism and bloated bureaucracies enriching only themselves. We are students of a black history, and a cruel unnatural history is what we have read. 

We indict the entire state system as lackeys to Oligarchy; Oligarchs must be tried and imprisoned. 

The bureaucratic bloat of each state must be reigned in. The nation state is an anachronism. It must be replaced with community centered, democratic autonomy. This is the underlying message of the Democratic Confederalist Parties, the parties of workers and the oppressed; which is to say nearly all people living today.

You are in great company!

If these rogue governments, puppets of Oligarchy cannot be controlled through fair elections, they must be brought to their knees via armed struggle. Not the so-called ‘bourgeoisie’ against the so-called ‘proletariat’, that is old, dated language. Worker against Oligarchy. People who toil, who strive and spend their life as some kind of slave against a tiny, tiny group of malicious factions. Oligarchic Collectives of powerful ruling elite families. Vampires that use the state system to keep us working, keep as all divided and always afraid.

It is not seditious to say “I am a Worker!” You should say it proudly. The Working Class is the class of most humans, the class of people who make this machine run, keep the lights on. It is time to paralyze the machine if we must. To turn off the lights and leave the factory floor.

We are writing of a class of people that currently cannot feed their children, a class which is still affixed in chattel slavery, a class which dies of curable diseases, and lacks even clean water coming into equality with a far smaller class that has all the world’s good things and far too much more. The basis of all rights is an equality before them. 

We are workers and this is a Party for Workers. A libertarian Workers Party, that orients a policy framework toward real social justice via a structural embrace of full human rights.

Saying who is the responsible party is actually the initiating question of this paper. We must believe that it is our duty and destiny as Workers first to set this example, there is no particularist destiny when it comes to human rights. They belong to all women, children and men. They belong to men who love men, women who love women and also to people born either woman or man, but don’t identify as such or change it later. If you are alive, and you are a sentient creature with a heart, a soul, a brain and conscience; you are entitled to Human Rights. “An Injury to one is an injury to all” as long as a single person has their rights violated we allow a permissive air of rights violation, a virus. An infection to a just society.

Human rights must be judged in their Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability and Quality. They must manifest in all aspects of social policy.

Rights for all or rights for none!

So who will be asked to fight? In this struggle of Workers against Oligarchs, Oligarchic Collectives that will bring the entire heel of spies, torture, police, military and government abuse on us for these ideas; Every man, woman and child who is able has to fight. Our unity must be a total unity. No rights will be secure if even one gay, black woman is slurred in closed quarters. We are after all fighting a long and total war. We are fighting internationally. No nation is real, each is an artificial construct to divide the Working Class. We have some allies, but mostly we have an array of very well resourced enemies. With nowhere to run or hide, not even Rojava or Cuba.

If you want to be free, “free” being the full attainment and total implementation of universal human rights as well as one day seeing the end of the war: Not just the several dozen live fire wars raging, but the end of man’s willingness and ability to make war then join humanity’s cause.

This is no prelude to a dream. No woman or man ought fall under wrath of war, famine, pestilence or disease, not while in some many gilded ghettos fear of these horsemen have been near obliterated. We look you in the eyes and tell you help is coming and we’re going to win some of these rights or die trying.

This is no “I have a dream”, when the pages end, you open your eyes and help us hold the lines. We will tell you how!

We’re going to get our Human Rights the old fashioned way. The settler way, the cowboy-cowgirl way. The Kurdish way. With tenacity and brazen force of will. With zealous persistence. Or more specifically the kibbutz bootstrap way, the way once called “Zionism”. Until the left and Palestinians made such a word a dirty word. A word associated with Occupation. But the idea of “Zionism”, before there was Israel, before Israel became a colony of America; the idea was to build piecemeal institutions of a state that was unrealistic and unrecognized, that didn’t yet even exist. To step, by step set up a Parallel State to whatever unjust order was horsetrading, macarading as reality. The idea of “Zion”, “the world to come” built in the world of the real is also known by the Hebrew people as “Tikkun Olam”. Zionism today is almost purely associated with Palestinian oppression. Tikkun Olam, is mostly a liberal kumbaya for social justice, in an age of unmitigated bloodshed and terror.

Until enshrined in righteous law, set in constitutions and adjudicated by judges; rights must have a fort.

We’re going to have to build thousands and thousands of such forts way up in the mountains and hold out for a human dawn, that will hopefully arrive before the Capitalists bleed the entire earth dry and we are left with a violent, well armed desert. Killing each other over water.

Democratic Confederalism is the ideological fusion of American Libertarianism, Jewish Zionism and also a Kurdish Socialism. It has profound commitments to participatory democracy, womens’ equality, environmentalism and the protection of ethnic/religious minorities. It is neither purely left nor right in policy. It is the ideological merger of alternatives to a failed Capitalist Modernity, a solution process where the state has collapsed or the state is an agent of great predation. It is a bold idea, in a war of ideas that prepares a defense of structural rights,  Available, Accessible,Acceptable and of actual Quality. It embraces a false ncesatarian stand that we cannot have elements of left and right in the social policies to which they apply.

These forts, these outposts of liberty and justice will radiate the ideals we fight for. They will demonstrate the viability of a human rights protected world, collective economics, democracy and non-state solutions to daily problems. Our children and our grandchildren will be given their rights. Our outposts, be they infrastructure, training academies or schools to help, heal and save this sick sad world are our answer to the failed projects of Capitalism. We will build up our own credit unions, charter schools, vocational programs, volunteer rescue agencies, housing cooperatives, clinics, banks, universities and major syndicates modeled on justice. Framing Human Rights goals alongside Workers power. With Democratic Confederalism and actionable work to achieve Human Rights we will craft the foundation of thousands of confederated cantons; a series of Parallel States. If the existing states cannot or will not legislate Human Rights Enabling legislation and will not arrest these criminal Oligarchs; we must achieve rights for ourselves and deny the state system our tax revenue.

Democratic Confederalism is the future. It is the full achievement of human rights by social networks and grassroots infrastructure when elected or self appointed government fails to provide, or threatens us. It is not universally adversarial; but it is a matter of survival. It should be defended with armed self defense.

Our main foreign policy as a movement and Party is the full and total exportation of the technology and ideas into the hands of our fellow human beings more oppressed than ourselves by man or nature. The weapons of our immediate war are the bootstrap teaching outposts, guerrilla medical programs and clinics; make shift vocational academies, and security services that prevent inter-ethnic bloodletting, or that of state actors against their own civilians.

We will not, and cannot fight a war purely on ideas like the United Nations has done for 70 years to implement these documents. We must make the governments afraid. This is the only reasonable way any of the will make change. But we must make them nervous, not terrified, in terror they will only lash out with the entirety of their militarily and police forces. History is full of this. However, the majority if not all state governments must be removed. They are illegitimate and serve on the Oligarchy or each nation.

We are not the kind of people who build a school to watch it burn down or build a clinic to then see nurses abused and aid workers threatened or a local community victimized for wanting to better its condition. Every single institution we set up must be defended like a fortress. Defended by a People’s Defense Force. Note carefully from history that our enemy the Oligarchy and the repressive forces of the State will kill rape or torture anyone it believes is a threat. It will rape your loved on in front of you and put whole ethnic groups in death camps. It will torture your activists, kill your leaders and call you a “terrorist”.

But you’re only a terrorist if you are killing unarmed civilians. You’re only a terrorist when you kill people who are not part of the actual war.

When we build a school or a clinic, know we plan to defend each and everyone we set up with our lives and steel. In East New York, in Cite Soleil, in the Gaza or the Gully or Rome, Istanbul, or Jerusalem we will fight for human rights like a war for Armageddon with the calculated strategy of Machiavelli acting out the Art of War. We have to form quite a lot of something out of almost nothing. In the world today, the world of the real Human rights aren’t worth the pages they are printed on.

You have to begin in your own community by feeding the poor, clothing the naked and teaching ethics to the young people. You must of course begin close to home and enlist the support of your family and friends. You begin must small, but always dream with grandeur. Question tradition, it perpetuated wrongness. Question impossible, everything was impossible until it was done. 

You must focus on small victories that build off each other. Feeding free breakfast to children or busing families to visit prisoners, is only revolutionary when it offer s service the state does not provide, or provides inadequately AND is openly associated with a Party of the resistance. Keeping a few blocks litter free, keeping them safe and then drug free. Litter free is an act of charity. Safe is an act of community control of policing, drug free is a challenge to some gang or the mob. You could work to rehabilitate convicts and junkies, which is charity. You can integrate the disposed into a meaningful role in the community, turn them from a vagrant to a worker. You could teach law and accounting to the poor or volunteer in a shelter making art, the move from a charity to a revolutionary communal institution has a lot to do with intent. Capitalists and Oligarchs fund charities and foundations to appear philanthropic, wash some of their wealth. Most charities, like NGOs, are about pork chop politics; about small solutions to the worst elements of obvious poverty, but they are not revolutionary.

A communal institution is revolutionary because it seeks to take control of the means of development, it seeks to compete with the inadequate of absent service the state provides with the tax base.   

There are many beachheads to secure. Which is to say places so hopeless that any help is something. There are refugee camps so large they go on for all the eye to see, miles and miles of squalor. There are countries where social services are given only to the preferred ethnic group. We will win this war; but we must wage it correctly. The purpose of an emergency group is to set up the beach head which introduces the skills to develop the initial communal institution, then the strategic planning in place to create backwards and forwards linkages between these institutions. Until the revolutionary institution are valid alternative to what the state offers, further de-legitimizing the state. But expect assault in the front and the rear and side upon these mechanisms.

Thus to secure our rights we must control the means to provide social services, the means of development. To transition from pitiless capitalism to socialism or some False Necessitarian fusion, we require organized workers cooperatives; to control the means of production. You cannot seize institutions of the state and expect them to behave in a manner that is less corrupt, less fallible. You cannot take another mans factory and declare it a workers cooperative. In many ways Democratization of the social and economic spheres of life require new institutions and Social Entrepreneurship; Democratic Confederalism is  an ideology of governance that values empowerment.

We set up new schools, new clinic and new infrastructure run by the workers. We set up new enterprises, also run by the workers. This does not mean total equality attributed to communism, or enforced top down restriction like State Socialism; there is room for elements of both Socialism and Capitalism in a society that is democratic and human rights reinenforced.

We have to focus where the state has failed or is flailing. This is the strategy of an emergency group sent to secure a beach head, build the first forts. But at some stage, an early stage the Party must protect its institution and confederated structures.


We must always take preventative measures. There are some very guilty men in the world, probably a few women too, but they’re all going to die of old age just like everyone else. Hopefully in white light tight plastic rooms heavily guarded with the latest in life prolonging health options available in The Hague. We advocate the capture and imprisonment of war criminals, but we cannot call for their assassination. We must isolate them, indemnify them and then better educate their grandchildren.

The posture of the Peoples’ Defense Forces must always be defensive. There is a large body of precedent to suggest against embarking on a people’s war. Such campaigns are bloody, in decisive and always result in widespread death and destruction. The Defense Forces are to protect communities from aggression, state aggression, non state paramilitaries, theocratic fundamentalists or criminal banditry.

There are five key pillars to Democratic Confederalist parties functionality;

Democratic Autonomy (establishing meaningful participatory democracy in a all structures, assemblies and bodies)

Human Mass Mobilization ( Widespread Human Rights Active Education and Policy Level Implementation/enforcement)

Control and Enhancement of all local Social Services (controlling and improving on the means of social and economic development)

Control and Democratization of Productive Mechanisms (controlling and democratizing the means of production)

Mobilization of a Peoples’ Defense Forces (enlistment of local forces for deterrent self-defense)

Know that you are not alone in questioning why it’s been so bad, for so long. Know that we have had a very long night and you have been born just before dawn. Know that good women and men serve in this Party and that we all stand on the shoulders of giants that fell fighting for an idea whose time has arrived.

The only question left is to ask what you can specifically do to end your role as a collaborator or as a civilian and begin training as a champion of our people and our universal rights.

And we have a few ideas!

It has long been established that land, or the possession of land does not bring any inherent, long-term security. Its capture in fact is one of the fundamental historical exacerbation of humanities many woes and burdens. Defensibility is no sure fire guarantee of anything other that temporary survivability, but that does not connote fulfillment of human potential. So “new land” therefore always has old problems, and surely now there is no “new land”. Even since time immoral there is especially never an ‘empty land.’ There is always an indigenous population and a conquering outsider. A colonizer and the colonized. It’s never worked out well to say the least.

So we don’t obtain universal human rights by settlement of land upon some aggressor-violators’ territory, not in the traditional since anyway.

There is no uncharted isle, no unclaimed valley: the word is a much-sectioned off place. Invisible little, bloody lines telling women and men they are forever divided. But we will fight that false notion on the beaches, shores and airwaves, with pen and with the rifle. What divides us are invented lines, lines of conquest, colonization and subjugation. The nation state is not natural, it is man made. It is a false consciousness imposing a loyalty, a flag and an anthem along with a mostly made up history on a global slave population; the working class.

Some slaveries are far worse than others. Some slaveries take on the shape of careers. But make no mistake, you will be kept working until near the day that you die too early from exhaustion and stress.

SO ALWAYS WORKING FROM WHAT IS, not what we’d ideally like it to be is the first major break from “traditional Zionism”. We do not make the capture of a new nation any type of objective or means to our ends. The second defining break is the level of participation. Having a land need not make one a ‘real people’ as any Kurd or Basque can tell you. Nor are the good things of life always enjoyed within a so-called ‘State’ as virtually every Congolese, Sudanese or Sub-Saharan African can tell you.

So, first things first. Seizure of land solves absolutely nothing. 

Second, tactics of economic and political Zionism can be harnessed without the politics of identity-based nationalism and that is called Democratic Confederalism. An ideological theory established by Murray Bookchin; Jew, Zionist then Anarchist but was put into practice by Abdullah Ocalan; first a third world liberation nationalist, then a Maoist then a Democratic Confederalist. Ocalan built on Bookchin who built on Wallerstien who built on Marx. 

Thirdly, mobilization of a wealthy Diaspora is often a detriment. Always better to mobilize the working class Diaspora. Rich people really do all think quite alike. Much of a diaspora is riddled with collaborators, people who defected from confrontation, and their children, and children’s children who culturally have imbibed the rapid individualism of the North and the West.

We must reject all forms of nationalism. The only valid nationalism is nationalism as a cultural sentimentality, but not as a unifying identity. Nationalism8 is a structural implementation of slavery and a re-conceptualization of the feudal order.

No nation had clean historical hands! The particular-ism of United States of America is that the it was a colony that shed its metro-pol Great Britain quite early on. And on top of that within three hundred years came to age as a world empire; presiding of the Globalization Epoch of Capitalist Modernity. It is now in decline and the People’s Republic of China is emergent.

Who can blame the United States that cannot blame Russian, China, Spain, Japan, France, England and virtually every European country? Every nation on earth took part in genocide & atrocity of some kind pre, post or during slavery and colonialism. And to the cultural nationalists of the undeveloped world and their Diaspora we remind them that there is no well documented golden age in Africa, South America and Asia either, even before violent pale monkeys barged in with some germs, guns and steel.


We are not simply content to document or apprehend war criminals, we need real infrastructure and we need it now. No more after the fact agonizing on atrocities. We need emergency groups, we need flying columns and a reserve army of human rights professionals and labor.

Since 1948 there have been few positive developments in the cause of human rights. No army will enforce them; no champions have risen with arms to heroically bring them into a state of real being.

Once again, until the time the United Nations or any state actor will actually protect and enshrine these rights then the women and men of the Workers Parties, and the hundreds of international formations like our own will take this burden on our shoulders for the sake of our future.

We lay claim our 58 codified rights and bellow help is coming, push forward to inevitable victory! We don’t want a state, or some land and we don’t crave power for the sake of power, or the ease of doing some business. Using the following tactics outlined in this program we seek a massive and overlapping set of infrastructures generated by civilians, through Workers Parties to enforce and enact these rights without the blessing or endorsement of any government. Where others have failed we will succeed; because we must succeed if we are to survive.

Humanity this is your call to arms!

← A Preamble on Justice (Pamplet One), Democratic Confederalist Papers

EMS at 9.11

EMS Providers Recall 9/11

There was no way to fully plan for what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 because no one could ever have expected the massive loss of life and destruction that occurred simultaneously in New York City, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville, Pa.

“It was the unexpected times the unimaginable,” said former Fire Department of New York (FDNY) EMS Chief John Peruggia.

Those who responded to 9/11 have not fully survived the event—because what they experienced has not ended. The trauma of that day continues to plague the physical and mental health of many of the responders and, in many cases, shatter their families in a never-ending reverberation of pain and suffering.

The reality is that the death toll from the attacks grows larger each year. And although physical wounds have healed, the emotional scars remain for many of the responders a decade after 9/11.

However, the ripple effect of that day hasn’t been all bad. In New York City, it has led to many positive changes, the likes of which even seasoned responders never imagined, including an internalized culture of safety that’s widely accepted and practiced; a newfound respect and cooperation between fire and EMS personnel; and even—gasp—New York City firefighters and police officers taking the first baby steps toward building a foundation of trust.

None of these changes would have happened without the cataclysmic event we call 9/11. Twenty years later, we look back and remember.

The Way We Were

The primary EMS provider for New York City is the FDNY EMS Division. In addition, more than 30 hospital systems (referred to as “voluntaries”) contract with the city to provide 9-1-1 response units, delivering full-time, professional BLS and ALS service to specific areas of the city. In 2001, there were approximately 950 ambulance tours every day for a city of more than eight million residents and countless tourists.

On 9/11, 24 EMS supervisors were involved in the World Trade Center incident, along with the crews from 29 ALS and 58 BLS units. Assuming each unit had a minimum two-member crew on board, nearly 200 EMTs and paramedics were on site when the towers fell. By evening, an estimated 400 additional EMS personnel had made their way to the World Trade Center.


What many people failed to realize on 9/11 is that the Pentagon, while not as tall as the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, was occupied by more than 23,000 people and is one of the world’s largest office buildings. The 6.5 million square-foot structure has 3.7 million square feet of office space, three times the floor space of the Empire State Building. The Capitol could fit into any one of the five wedge-shaped sections. It has 131 stairways, 19 escalators and 16 parking lots.

Because of the high security around the building that is headquarters to our nation’s Department of Defense, and its expansive security perimeter, which includes 200 acres of lawn, the Pentagon incident appeared to be much smaller than it actually was.

Although the death toll at the Pentagon was less than that at the World Trade Center, the same command and control, firefighting and associated physical and emotional stressors were present in the Arlington, Va., incident.

Then the Towers Fell

The first EMS crews to arrive at the World Trade Center had established staging areas and began triaging patients, per protocols. They started transporting burned and traumatized patients to nearby hospitals. They dodged the falling bodies of people who elected to jump more than 100 stories to their deaths rather than die in the fires that raged on the upper floors of the north and south towers.

The responders who were there that day, say that the sound of those bodies crashing to the ground will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Then the towers fell.

Surprised to find that they were still alive, the men and women who were on scene began what could be described as “the long climb to recovery.” Crawling out from under vehicles after what seemed like an hour of entrapment in a suffocating environment and wading through mountains of debris, they entered a new reality—a post-9/11 world. A world of darkness, choking air and “deafening silence.”

“I remember that first breath,” says Al Kim, executive director of Westchester (N.Y.) EMS. Searing hot and acrid, it could barely be called air.

Kim had been walking toward the lobby of the South Tower when it started to fall. Like many at the scene that day, he mistook the roar of the tumbling building for the third plane that was reportedly heading to New York. He dove under a New York Presbyterian Hospital sport-utility vehicle for protection.

When he finally emerged, a thick blanket of gray dust blocked the sun and covered everything within his limited eyesight. The eerie silence was pierced by a single sound—the PASS alarms of hundreds of firefighters. It’s an audible alarm that signals a firefighter is no longer moving. It was a sound he had never heard before—and never wants to hear again.

Physical Toll

The lasting effect of 9/11 is the physical and emotional toll that continues to plague those who responded. New York City’s officials estimate that more than 21,000 people who worked either on a paid or volunteer basis after 9/11 have developed physical and mental disorders as a result of their exposure to toxic substances and traumatic experiences. Most of the responders we spoke to for this article in New York; New Jersey; Arlington, Va.; and Shanksville, Pa., described some degree of physical or mental impairment. For many, the effects cost them their livelihoods and/or relationships.

Since 9/11, many serious health issues, such as chronic respiratory infections and gastrointestinal diseases, have been directly related to the acrid dust and smoke breathed by those on scene. Testing completed by the EPA in the days following the collapse of the towers revealed a complexity of chemical compounds and particulate structures unlike anything ever encountered.

Dust particles, especially those in the air immediately following the collapse of the buildings, were measured at 10 microns or less; particles so small that they are capable of doing damage regardless of the chemical content because of their ability to be inhaled and transferred deep into the lower lungs.

For years, first responders fought for health benefits to help pay for the expensive tests and treatments they required. Gradually, as studies acknowledged that the health issues were due to exposure to toxins as a result of the 9/11 attack, responders began to receive healthcare coverage, but how much and when varied widely.

On Jan. 2, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the “James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act,” establishing the World Trade Health Program. It will provide $4.3 billion in federal funding for both treatment and financial compensation to those suffering effects of the attacks. This is a help, but due to the slow-moving wheels of bureaucracy, it comes very late for responders who had already endured years of fiscal, physical and emotional hardship. Some have already died.

Emotional Toll

Even 20 years later, many of the responders are haunted by quirks of fate that day. If a partner hadn’t been late to work, that crew would have been beneath the tower when it fell. If the building had held up for just a few seconds longer, another person wondered if they would have made it into the lobby and certain death. The decision not to take shelter in a subway stairwell or simply to run left instead of right, made the difference between life and death that horrible day. In psychiatric circles, these feelings are called “survivor’s guilt.”

For most of the personnel we interviewed, the initial anxiety has subsided, although several said they’re still uncomfortable above the third floor in high-rise buildings. Some say they have a tendency to hurry their patient out of high rises and into the confines of their ambulance located on the firm ground below.

However, many continue to be plagued by nightmares, especially as the anniversary of 9/11 approaches each year. Some are still being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. A number of them no longer work in EMS. Some have sought professional counseling. Others wish they had.

“It was extremely difficult because most of us went back to work that day or the next day. We didn’t have any time off to sort of reflect and recover, which I’m not sure now was a good thing or a bad thing in the end,” FDNY EMS Division Chief Janice Olszewski says.

“When I drive past the site—and I do quite frequently—I still get little butterflies in my chest. I mean, all this time later,” she says. “That’s how strong this kind of [exposure to] trauma is.”

Others can’t bring themselves to look at the World Trade Center site. “I drive with my head turned away and hope I don’t hit a car in front of me,” says former FDNY EMT Frank Puma. After 11 years at FDNY, Puma retired following a non-9/11-related injury. “I try not to let it consume my life. I still have my issues with it, you know. Things that will never go away,” he says.

When you ask what the most vivid memory I have of 9/11 is, what represents the most emotional stress on me and many others that day, it was the smell; the smell of death.

That morning … You know, we’ve all smelled dead bodies; freshly dead bodies. I’m not talking about decomposed bodies [that have a distinctly different smell]. At Ground Zero, there was that smell of blood and death … coupled with the smell of lots of things burning,” says Lahita.

“And there were trees that had no leaves. Pieces of clothing, like dresses and shoes and stuff. I would look up—there was catastrophe. I would look down—there was catastrophe. Everywhere I looked, things were burning. It was like something I’ve never seen. And I hope I never see it again. It came back to me recently when I saw images of Joplin, Mo. It was similar to that, but worse because at Ground Zero, there was also a sea of dust mixed in with all the wreckage!

One of the firemen I was working with a few days after 9/11 made an observation that’s still unfathomable to me and many others who were at Ground Zero. After the collapse, you did not see any contents of the towers that were intact or in their original composition; no chairs or desks or file cabinets, or windows or computers … Just a lot of dust.

It was like everything was totally vaporized. And I mean that. There was nothing that was recognizable. Everything was literally vaporized,” Lahita says.

After 9/11, many say it was hard not to bring those emotions to work. Or worse yet, they bring them home.

Sean Boyle, a Bayonne (N.J.) firefighter and per diem EMT with Jersey City Medical Center, part of LibertyHealth in Jersey City, says that, since 9/11, he and many of his colleagues in EMS, fire and law enforcement no longer sit with their backs to the door when in a restaurant or other public place. He says, “Most responders today have the mindset that they have to walk around with their head on a constant swivel.”


Relationships, marriages and family cohesiveness have also been significantly strained and broken in the aftermath of 9/11. Although there’s no official record, unofficial reports suggest that the divorce rate is high among 9/11 responders. It’s unclear whether the struggle just became too much for some relationships or, like some have suggested, surviving this country’s worst terrorist attack gave those responders a new sense of purpose and perspective.

“I think if you really take to heart that life is short and you should appreciate everything you have … [and] not worry about the small stuff, then, that could take a toll on those around you; or it could be beneficial,” Kim says.

Part of the problem may have been that spouses were left out of the counseling loop. Although counseling was offered to the responders through work and to many of their children through their school, there was no organized effort to assist the wives, husbands and significant others who inherited the emotional victims who suddenly became quiet, silent or different inside.

Getting Help

“We were very fortunate in that we had a peer counseling program set up before 9/11,” says Jack Delaney, retired director of New York Presbyterian EMS. The problem, he says, is that some of our paramedics wouldn’t go for any kind of counseling because doing so could eliminate any chance of getting hired by the fire department. To work around that, New York Presbyterian established a peer counseling program.

“One of the most important aspects of our department before 9/11 was our focus on behavior health. Working with our Employee Assistance Program, we develop trusted relationships with their counselors that contributed to our overall wellbeing during and after the tragedy,” says Arlington County Fire Chief Jim Schwartz.

Responders like former FDNY Deputy Chief of EMS Charles R. Wells, who have taken advantage of the counseling, found it to be of significant benefit. “There’ve been setbacks along the way. You get nightmares. You get times where you have these feeling of impending doom. Thank God for the counseling unit … because they’ve been miracle workers, with me anyway,” he says.

In many cases, the relationships that allowed couples to share their love for EMS and their love for their partner seemed to cave under the excessive emotional pressure and attention the rescuers paid to the job or recovery efforts after 9/11.

To find closure, some responders needed to bring the event full circle. For Olszewski, it meant retracing that day’s steps. Initially it was hard to get her bearings, she says. The landscape is so dramatically different. One day, she returned to the front of the Millennium Hotel, where she was standing when the north tower fell. She walked past the church on the corner, the subway stairwell she nearly ran down into and finally onto Broadway Avenue and safety. “I felt better when I did that,” she reports.

Puma says it helps him to talk about it, but, like many others, he’ll only talk to people who were there that day. “In the beginning I didn’t want to talk about it to anybody,” he says. Eventually, his wife convinced him to open up a bit and participate. She reminded him that someday his baby boy is going to have questions about 9/11 and his father’s role on that terrible day. “Whether you like it or not, you’re a part of history,” she told him.

A few responders, like New York Downtown Hospital paramedic Juana Lomi, emerged from 9/11 feeling affirmed. At first, she says she spent days locked up in her room crying. But she was able to gain perspective by writing a personal journal about her experience and her feelings afterward.

“I think the whole incident … was like a defining day, but it was also a day of confirmation of what I, we, live life to do,” she says. “I made it out of this one, so I better do something better. Keep doing what I’m doing, because it must have been … God’s will that I be there and I should keep myself [in EMS] until I can’t do the job anymore,” she says.

Lomi is the only employee left at New York Downtown who responded to 9/11.

Lessons Learned

“Our system of regional automatic and mutual aid, developed over several decades, was a significant advantage. Units from our neighboring jurisdictions, with whom we work every day, fit into the response as if we were one organization.

Terrorism had been an area of focus for us before 9/11, and one of our most important partners was the FBI. They established a liaison with the Fire and EMS departments in the region in 1999 and were training with us on the morning of September 11,” says Schwartz.

Since 9/11, FDNY approaches EMS and fire operations differently. “We all talk about our careers as before September 11th and after September 11th, and it’s been totally different,” says FDNY Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano. “It certainly has changed the way we do business. It’s changed the way we think about our job in that we don’t just fight fires anymore. We have so many other responsibilities.”

The first order of business for FDNY was to assign new leaders for the fire department. When the towers fell, the FDNY lost Chief of Department Peter J. Ganci, First Deputy Commissioner William Feehan and 21 other chiefs. Lost with them was significant experience, institutional memory and decades of succession planning.

Those who were left had to step up. On the morning of 9/11, Cassano was a citywide tour commander. Within 24 hours, he was named acting chief of operations, second only to the chief of the department. The formal promotion came just days later. He vowed to institute changes that would guarantee this type of catastrophic leadership void would never happen again.

To that end, FDNY embraced the National Incident Management System (NIMS), putting its own twist on it and dubbing it Citywide Incident Management System. With the help of a NIMS team from the Southwest IMT, FDNY has learned how to better staff and manage long-term incidents, sending only those who need to be at the scene directly to the incident site.

A state-of-the-art fire operations center at FDNY headquarters in Brooklyn was created after 9/11 and now uses live video feeds from police helicopters and Department of Transportation cameras, digital photography, and multiple maps and displays to give ranking officers a global view of an incident and avoid the need to have all command officers on scene to direct operations.

To groom future leaders, the department began an aggressive leadership training program. “We send our staff chiefs to all kinds of management schools,” Cassano says.

In 2002, the fire department established the FDNY Fire Officer’s Management Institute (FOMI), an executive program to provide fire and EMS chiefs with leadership and management training.

In 2004, then EMS Chief Peruggia became the first member of the FDNY to complete the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program, a four-year course aimed to develop leaders in the field of fire service. Since then, six more officers have participated in the program, including Olszewski.

A New Culture of Safety

EMS and fire personnel have a new perspective on safety since 9/11. Looking at the risk/reward through a different lens, the safety of the EMS providers is paramount. “We’re the ones who are going to have to treat the patients, so it’s better to take a safer approach,” says FDNY EMS Command Chief Abdo Nahmod. “We have learned to work smarter and safer.”

New “recall packages” deploy personnel depending on the type and size of an incident. A recall may now involve only 25% of personnel, leaving 50% to relieve the other 50%. Or, if the incident warrants it, only special operations command personnel may be recalled.

According to Cassano, FDNY has quadrupled training since 9/11. “We got fanatical about training, and between training and safety, we’ve been pushing each incredibly hard since then,” Olszewski says.

FDNY’s Certified First Responder Program is helping to improve the relationship between FDNY firefighters and EMS personnel. The program is also part of the curriculum for all probationary firefighters. “It just becomes part of their job vs. something that’s thrust upon them that they didn’t bargain for,” Olszewski says.

Other joint training efforts include firefighter Mayday drills that involve EMS crews. Previously, firefighters would run right past EMS crews with an injured firefighter, not knowing exactly where to take them. Today, Olszewski says the emphasis is, “Bring them to me. I care. I want to help him. I think that’s a big deal,” she says. FDNY also now offers a formal rehab process for its members at all major incidents.

Nahmod and his colleagues in Virginia, and Pennsylvania say that all agencies have learned an important lesson about collaboration since 9/11. “No one agency can handle an incident like this,” he says. “It’s the dialogue that makes it happen, not the technology. You have to figure out a way to collaborate.” FDNY does close to 100 drills with various agencies. It has also established inter-agency liaisons with police and fire to address issues before they become unmanageable. Nahmod admits that there are no Kumbaya sessions yet, but it’s a start.

New Programs

“We in EMS here in New York City have learned to adapt to the ever-changing threat landscape,” Peruggia says. “We are doing great things to serve the people we protect.” In the fall of 2011, the EMS Division deployed a new, triage tag with an orange triage level to identify patients who develop a major medical issue as a result of the incident, not because of it.

“Initially those kind of chest pain or difficulty breathing patients were tagged green because they would be the walking wounded,” Asaeda says. But even with diligent re-triaging, these patients can get lost in a mass-casualty incident. The orange tag category now allows EMS personnel to identify these patients early as a medical triage and get them the treatment they need.

Increased Awareness

There are fewer and fewer of the first-to-arrive 9/11 responders left working in New York City. Those who are still on the job are different. They’ve seen the face of evil, and it has changed the way they work and train. “We realized now … it has affected many, many people, and we just don’t know to what extent,” Asaeda says.

Olszewski says she knows from her firsthand experience on 9/11 that she may again need to deploy the new protective equipment, such as the compact respirator assigned to each member. For others, it may be just another piece of equipment to leave on the ambulance. “But having been through 9/11, I take it with me. And I encourage those under my command to do the same,” she says.

Orlando Martinez was promoted to lieutenant in 2011. As a FDNY EMS officer, he finds that his experience 10 years ago as a responder on 9/11 gives him a valuable perspective. “I’m definitely more aware,” he says. He’s also very protective about the younger personnel working the job. “I’m there for their safety,” he says. “And I’m very emphatic in my orders for the crews to wear the protective gear issued to them.”

For Martinez and his colleagues who responded to the Pentagon, their hyperawareness doesn’t end when their shifts are over. The responders are now aware of all the exits when they are in public places. “It’s always in the back of my mind,” says Martinez. The negative aspect of this new “watch your back” thought process is that it has subtly added extra stress to the lives of responders and their families when they’re supposed to be “off duty.”

What’s Next?

Everyone has their own ideas about what the next attack would look like. Cassano says it doesn’t really matter. It may not be a terrorist attack; it could be a tornado. Rather than focus solely on terrorist attacks, FDNY takes an all-hazards approach to major incidents, something Cassano says all emergency providers, no matter where they live, should consider.

The key is to provide for the safety of emergency workers so they can provide for the safety of the public they serve.

Cassano says that the personnel at FDNY feel a profound gratitude for all the assistance they received following the attacks and they want to give back. “We’d love to share what we’ve learned,” he says.

“We needed a lot of help to recover after September 11th, and we got it from a lot of different departments throughout the city … state, the country, the world. Whether you’re the smallest department in the country or whether the FDNY, we’re all in this battle together,” he says.


As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, many of the responders we spoke with said they choose not to participate and, in fact, many who can, plan to leave town during the event.

The reality is that the responders to each 9/11 attack site will never be able to forget what they heard, felt, saw and struggled with that awful day. Each responder realizes that they must move on with some semblance of normalcy in their lives. And each agency involved in the 9/11 incidents has learned much from their experiences, struggles and stresses. They’ve instituted new processes to better manage incidents in the future. 

Flight 93

Jill Miller, manager of the Somerset Area (Pa.) Ambulance Association on 9/11, responded to the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa., as a paramedic on the second-arriving ambulance. She then assumed the position of on-site EMS coordinator.

“What I remember most about that day is the utter shock that there was actually a plane that had crashed. The plane crashed into unsettled Earth, which was then thrust into the air and completely covered in the ground. There was very little debris and even fewer pieces that appeared to be from a plane.

Several days after the incident, when I was made aware that the plane was actually beneath the ground where we first parked and walked, I could not fathom the possibility of it all. I remember that it was one of the most beautiful fall days I could ever recall. The sky was bright blue, and the sun was shining. I pay more attention to those kinds of days now,” she says.

Christian Boyd, a full-time EMT with Somerset Ambulance that day, realized that in less than five minutes, there were no survivors, and there would be few intact bodies to be recovered.

Boyd says that no matter how he tries to forget the crash of Flight 93, he still has vivid memories and subtle reminders of the incident. And, like other responders from New York City and Arlington, Va., after that day, he initially refrained from returning to the crash site. It wasn’t until November 2002 that Boyd drove past the site.

By Teresa McCallion, EMT-B

EMS Martyrs of 9.11.01

EMT Maurice Bary PAPD/ Rutherford Ambulance 

Paramedic Bob Cirri PAPD

EMT James Coyle FDNY FF

EMT Brian Ellicott FDNY EMS

Paramedic Keith Fairben 

NY Presbyterian EMS

EMT Andre Fletcher FDNY FF

EMT Rodney Gillis NYPD ESU

EMT Lauren Grandcolas No Affiliation

EMT Linda Gronlund No Affiliation


Paramedic Felix Hernandez FDNY EMS

Paramedic George Howard PAPD

EMT Stephen Huczko PAPD

EMT Karl Joseph FDNY FF

EMT Je Jung No Affiliation

EMT Thomas Jurgens No Affiliation

EMT Timothy Keller FDNY EMS

EMT Michael Kiefer FDNY FF

Paramedic Charles Laurencin 

US Air Force

Paramedic David Lemange PAPD

Paramedic Carlos Lillo FDNY EMS

EMT Cynthia Mahoney No Affiliation

Paramedic Kathy Mazza PAPD

Paramedic Yamel Merino Montefiore EMS

EMT Richard Pearlman 

Forrest Hills Volunteer

EMT Jean Peterson Madison Ambulance Squad

Paramedic Kevin Pfeifer FDNY FF

Paramedic Ricardo Quinn FDNY EMS

Paramedic Deborah Reeve FDNY EMS

Paramedic Mario Santoro 

NY Presbyterian EMS

EMT Mark Schwartz Hunter Ambulance

EMTJeff Simpson-Dumfries VA Triangle Rescue Squad

Paramedic John Skala PAPD

EMT Frank Spinelli Short Hill, NJ VAC

Paramedic Daniel Stewart FDNY EMS

EMT Marc Sullins Cabrini EMS

EMT Kenneth Swenson Chatham Emerg Squad

EMT Sean Tallon FDNY FF

EMT Clive Thompson Summit, NJ VAC

EMT Hector Tirado FDNY FF

EMT Mitchel Wallace Bayside Volunteer Ambulance

EMT Glenn Winuk Jericho FD

EMT Zhe Zeng NY Brighton Ambulance

EMT Felipe A. Torre, Bureau of Training

Paramedic Martha Stewart, EMS Station 8

EMT Joseph A. Rodriguez, EMS Station 58

The 46 EMS Martyrs of the 9.11 Terrorist Attacks. Our hearts grieve for our fallen brothers and sisters and ask everyone who reads this to honor them by contacting their families to give

support for our fallen angels, each one a hero from our ranks.

The Front of the Frontline

“Front of the Front Line”:

EMS Honors its Covid-19 Dead

Whatever the “Front of the Frontline is”, that is where the women and men of EMS always stand.

Sometimes people hand you a dead blue baby, and you have to do everything at 10,000 miles an hour. Sometimes you turn up on a huge hysterical crowd where a couple people were shot and are bleeding everywhere. Sometimes you have to deliver a baby in a project stairwell. Sometimes you show up to a tight asthmatic gagging ready to arrest. Or you bring back a junkie, over and over and over again. The same junkie. Or sometimes you show up and someone was just raped in a park. Or you show up and shots are still being fired or a building is still on fire and you have to stand across the street in case someone has been burned alive get carted out and thrown on your stretcher.

You have to rely on your training. For an EMT three-months and for a Paramedic one year.

You had to feel and to care so much to have even shown up for the training. But to keep working you have to learn to un-feel and un-care and learn to forget. 

You had to learn to drive with an efficiency and speed that allows you to get to these terrible moments quickly. You have to carry with your partner 125 pounds of gear up the stairs, or down a subway tunnel, over the river or through the woods. You have to bring the first thirty minutes of the ER out to the streets. 

EMS did this during Hurricane Sandy, we did it on 9.11 and we did this for the very worst five weeks of the Covid 19 Pandemic. We are made “different” by how much we bring, but also for being closest to the danger of an emergency, we always are bold. We leave no one behind. 

It was like a vast invisible wave broke over the city and suddenly everyone who was elderly and everyone who was infirm started going into cardiac arrest.

It was like a natural disaster, except that it wasn’t. There was no clear epicenter or limit to the contagion. There was no sense that the worst was ever over. There was no warm zone. There was nowhere to retreat to except sleep when you could get it.

For most of the Pandemic it was all of us together against an invisible relentless enemy, rapidly spreading out amid fever, cough and death. Unlike all other “front line” services, EMS was running towards unpredictable death, as usual with inadequate equipment, shortages of everything, being compensated as though it were all a summer job. 

I remember very well the worst five weeks of the Pandemic, for there we were with our ambulances, our stretchers, our chairs and our oxygen tanks, arriving at cardiac arrest, after arrest, after arrest. Using the same masks for weeks. Carrying men and women out of their homes in our stair chairs as they desaturated and respiratory arrested right in front of us. In a city that suddenly couldn’t breathe. 

In the very worst period, those five weeks of total chaos; 20% of the FDNY went out sick. Fire Fighters stopped going out on medical calls, then going in much much slower than usual. In that chaos hundreds of EMTs and Paramedics came from around the country, deployed to NYC to manage a daily call volume above 7,000 a day. All services took casualties, everyone was thanked for their service. The pandemic moved to other parts of the country. Some we saved, many we did not. 

Sometimes a civilian friend or a pretty girl at the bar will ask, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen.” And then, no matter what you say or don’t say, they change the subject. It’s just so dark what we actually have to do. Show up over and over again as people get sick or die. Over the course of the Pandemic a lot of people died one after another.

Recently, as the smoke began to clear the from Covid-19 Pandemic which killed over 22,872 New Yorkers; the Emergency Medical Services counted our own dead. 

So far there have been at least 17 active duty deaths, and 9 amid EMS retirees. Thirteen died from line of duty Covid-19 exposure. Three were from out of town. Several were 9.11 Responders, men and women with over 20 to 30 years in EMS. Several worked at Voluntary Hospitals. Most people in EMS with or without a pension can’t actually afford to ever retire.

Four didn’t die from Covid-19 directly. They died from the bullets of a gun and from drug addiction. Two from overdoses.Two commited suicide off the clock.

John Mondollo was a 23 year old probationary EMT at the FDNY EMS at Bathgate Station 18 with less than 3 months on the job. Matthew Keene was an FDNY EMS Lieutenant, an experienced EMS Officer at Station 17, the Highbridge Outpost. Which is to say one was brand new and one was quite experienced. 

Alexander Raso, a 24 year old FDNY EMT from Station 59 died from a drug overdose in the very beginning of the Pendemic. Brandon Dorsa, a 36 year old FDNY EMT was critically disabled when his ambulance was struck and flipped over in a collision in 2015. He was permanently disabled, developed serious depression and subsequently transferred to Dispatch. His death,  another an alleged suicide was reported on Wednesday 7/15.

The NAEMT published results from a survey indicating that, compared to the general public, EMS professionals had a tenfold higher rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Perhaps the greatest unquantifiable stress associated with the Emergency Medical Services is the feeling that you and your partner have been trained well and tasked to save lives, but over and over again you must watch people die right in front of you. That is in essence a serious part of our job, we must day after day, night after night be there for the worst moments of your lives, realistically speaking, statistically speaking. We are only going to save a certain portion of the lives we are thrust into, called into at the very worst moment to effect. 

The very best EMT or very best Paramedic is only going to be successful some small part of the time, but on varying levels, in varying ways your traumas seep right into us.

The vast majority of people who go into cardiac arrest in a prehospital setting do not come back, and when a combination of early CPR, intravenous epinephrine and defibrillator shocks do bring them back only a tiny percentage of a percentage are neurologically intact, walking out of that hospital to see their families. Over 90%, they just die and they stay dead. They might die in an ER, or spend months or years on life support, but most do die. 

These are very unnerving, intimate moments. We are physically pumping the heart of your dead loved one. We are pushing medications, placing a tube down the airway, we are for about twenty or thirty minutes, with fire men hovering around us, angels of life and death. In the park, trains, six floor carry down tenements, 5 star hotels and housing project towers.

In moments like these, a whole family screaming and crying, your partner advancing a laryngscope blade and ET tube down the trachea of your loved one, who had just been having dinner with you. While you watch the EKG screen flicker out the signals showing what is happening in this person’s heart. You tie off, you insert an IV, you spike a bag of normal saline and begin pushing the appropriate variants of drugs or shocks per signal, the EMTs do CPR, and you try not to get blood, vomit or feces on your uniform. It’s very stressful work trying to bring people back from the dead. It also doesn’t pay the bills consistently in New York City.

So we all have 2, 3 or 4 jobs. We all work 50, 60 or 70 hours a week. A lot of the Medics are in Nursing or PA school too. It is that combination of high stress, chaotic draining interactions, lack of any respect and long long work weeks that does people in. People abandon this field the very minute they can. Most quit this field after only 4 years. 

Some go crazy from it. The rest, it changes us probably for the very worst. The saying goes “Don’t lose your civilian friends”, but you do. And for some, 10 times the national average, they give up. They take their own lives in one way or another. Like Lt. Matthew Keene and EMT John Mondello with guns. Like FDNY Paramedic Lenny Joyner who went alone up a mountain in 2012. Like EMT Alexander Raso who overdosed in March of 2020. Like many that never even made the news.

The parity issue is larger than EMS. It has to do with a wider issue of the public paying for two systems. One that’s mostly white and one that’s diverse, but the diverse system always gets less and inadequate service.

EMS “deserves more” not because it is stressful, or dangerous or how well we did during the Pandemic. We deserve more because of supply and demand. More because we generate profits. More because we do so much every day for New York.

For the sixteen Martyrs we lost, that we know about, for the nine old time EMS members who just passed for all the 13,500 men and women out right now on the trucks as we speak, let’s renew our demand for parity. Let’s be united as a service that is resourceful, resilient and diverse as the city we serve. We do as much or more as any other uniformed civil servant. We’d like to be paid like adults, to live in the city we come from. The city we serve.

Rest in Power:

FDNY Lt. Matthew Keene 

FDNY EMT Brenden Dorsa

FDNY EMT John Mondello

FDNY EMT Idris Bey

FDNY EMT Gregory Hodge 

FDNY EMT Douglas Gertz

FDNY EMT Richard Seaberry

FDNY EMT Alexander Raso

FDNY EMT-D John Redd

FDNY EMT-D Michael Lalima 

FDNY EMT-D Emilio Navedo

Paramedic Marlene Picone/ Maimonedes 

Paramedic Anthony ‘Tony’ Thomas  (HHC/FDNY EMS), NYU Langone

CCEMT-P, RN Brian Saddler/ Northwell

Paramedic Paul Carr/ Ambulnz

EMT Mike Field/ VSFD

EMT Salvatore Mancuso/ BGFD

17 Active Duty EMS Deaths

Retired MOS

FDNY Chief Edward Gabriel ®

FDNY Lt. Trudel Hiller ®

FDNY Lt. David Stone ®

FDNY Lt. Richard Dunn ®

FDNY Paramedic Robert Gibbs ®

FDNY EMT Jim Geraci ®

FDNY EMT Robert Hudson ®

FDNY EMT Robert Hudson ®

EMT Sy Collins ® 

9 Retiree Deaths

Author Bio:

Paramedic Walter S. Adler is a 16 year veteran of the Emergency Medical Services and a Native New Yorker. He served the FDNY EMS for 4 years and has served overseas in Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Haiti, Iraq and Syria. He is currently a 911 Paramedic with Montefiore EMS and BronxCare EMS in the Bronx.