“We owe you”

Kelly Pickerel

Sen. Joe Biden thanks local emergency personnel for their service to the country on Sept. 11 anniversary

VIEW a photo gallery of Biden campaigning in Parma.

In the midst of a heated campaign, all political differences were put on hold yesterday inside an American Legion post in Parma.

There, Democratic Vice Presidential-hopeful Joe Biden thanked local emergency personnel for their service to America.

“We take for granted what you do,” Biden said to the room of nearly 40 personnel, family and community members. “We should remember there are a lot of times you risk your lives for us. You’re so accustomed to not being thanked just because it’s your job.”

The grateful words came alongside the seventh anniversary of Sept. 11. Presidential candidates Barrack Obama and John McCain suspended television campaign advertisements and met at Ground Zero during a campaign truce in honor of those lives that were lost. Sen. Biden paid the same respect in Northeast Ohio.

“This is not about politics today,” he said. “We owe you. Today is a bittersweet day.”

Biden spoke of his own experiences on Sept. 11, 2001, and what he saw as America pulled together.

“As I got out of the plane (today), I looked up at the sky,” he said. “It reminded me of that cold, blue sky in Washington, D.C. on 9/11.”

Biden said he was in transit to the capital when his wife called him as the second plane hit the Twin Towers in New York City.

“At that moment, the whole world sort of froze,” he said.

But soon after, someone had to take action.

“It was a measure of who we are as a people,” he said of the emergency personnel’s quick, heroic actions. “Ordinary people came to help and save other people’s lives.”

One of the first congressmen to travel to Afghanistan after the attacks, Biden said he’ll never forget a photo on display in a back hallway in the building where al-Qaida prisoners were being held.

“I saw only one picture displayed,” he said. “There was that picture of the firefighter coming out of the dust and debris. Not a picture of a political leader, not a picture of another military man, but a firefighter. It was a symbol of America’s determination.

“You firefighters lifted America’s spirits.”

Parma Fire Captain Tony Dalesio said after Sept. 11, his 100-member department sent ten volunteers to Ground Zero. The rest stayed back and collected $250,000 for aid.

“We were all shocked,” he said. “We looked at is as a feeling of helplessness.”

But once the shock settled, Dalesio realized a lot of work needed to be done.

“It’s a different world now that those naive days before 9/11,” Dalesio said. “Anthrax. Who thought of Anthrax? I had never heard of it. It made me aware of the fact (that) we’re in Parma but we still need to get our act together.”

Cleveland Police Lieutenant Renee Kane agreed that Sept. 11 changed the way emergency departments see the world.

“We are more aware of potential targets that we didn’t even realize in the past,” she said. “We have to think of it on the forefront every day.”

Biden noted that across the country, fire and police departments have banned together to better protect American citizens.

“It’s no different in Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, California,” he said. “Ordinary people do extraordinary things.

“Every single day you suit up, put on equipment, head out not knowing exactly what you will find.”

Biden said Sept. 11 isn’t just about remembering those who died, but also those who gave their last measures of themselves.

“A nation who doesn’t remember those who have fallen (and) doesn’t commemorate those sacrifices that we made is a nation that doesn’t really know its history.”

Contact public affairs reporter Kelly Pickerel at [email protected].