A Small Repayment to the Heroes Among Us

Cape May

Too many times we use the word hero all too freely.  However, let’s be clear, you can never use that word enough these days.  We are living in a new world and new rules apply, everything we thought we knew about pandemics is trashed as the new dimensions of this war unfold before our very eyes.

I don’t have a lot of answers, but I do think that in this new world we will look at people very differently. That once seemingly innocent cough or sneeze of yesteryear will forever now be treated as a potential lethal weapon. The hugs and handshakes of old may or may not return. I imagine all generations now more acutely understand how quickly things can change, how everything once available with a push of a button, swipe of an iPhone, or rapid firing of Amazon Prime is no longer a certainty. The lost art of washing hands and keeping all objects free of germs is back in vogue—we can’t buy enough Purell or hand wipes these days.

Let’s talk about our front line heroes in this new age war—the nurses, doctors and all health care professionals go to the front of the line. The men and women of law enforcement, fire, military all belong in a special class of recognition that can never be diminished. The public employees who are keeping our roads, tunnels, bridges, airports, ports and other avenues of transportation open are heroes in their own right. With them, we have access to medical supplies, essential personnel, and food to make it to important points of destination. The brave men and women who staff the national supply chain and those who bravely staff the manufacturing, food services, and other essential points of our existence should all be applauded, loudly and often.

A few thoughts for our elected officials who are not self-confessing (and self-promoting) to a negative coronavirus test, do we really have to hear point-by-point of the NEGATIVE tests?  We are all truly sympathetic to our public officials who get the virus by merely doing their jobs—get well to all those public employees who contract the virus and we can’t wait to see you back on the job—this is where the Essex County Executive, Joe D.,  and Essex County Sherriff, Armando Fontoura, chime in that they are doing their jobs remote 24/7, which I believe, for the most part.

  1. Let’s exempt all front line nurses, doctors, health care professionals, military, police and fire from STATE and FEDERAL taxes from the calendar year 2020. Let’s make sure that this isn’t abused and reserved for those truly toiling in the midst of the work of savings lives, those who deal with death and making life altering decisions.
  2. There should be given serious consideration for creating a Life Insurance Pool for those health care professionals who are called into our hospitals and risk their lives each and every moment. It isn’t fair that some of them will die because they simply did their jobs. While no amount of money can replace this precious life, how can we in good conscience leave that ravaged family with mounting debt and one less resource to provide for the family, especially left behind children.
  3. We need to consider stiffening the sentencing and monetary penalties for those predators who scam or rip off the public at this time. Congratulations to our US Attorney Craig Carpenito, who is leading the AG’s national task force on price gouging and hoarding, and his superb team for prosecuting these bottom feeders.
  4. We need to set up a very visible and vibrant government sponsored helpline and support organizations to make sure that our seniors and elderly are cared for and watched over. Too many are trapped in their homes without family, and they need basic supplies, including medicine, toilet paper and food. This can’t be allowed to happen in our society. We need a safety net to catch these vulnerable pillars of our community.  They were there for us.  We need to be there for them.

There are many other things that we can do and these are just a few points to start the conversation. Many of us should take advantage of this remote work and house “arrest” to make the effort to reach out to those less fortunate and give some comfort, a call, an email, or text.  Any offer to help might be enough to allow that person to smile and pass it along. I do detect a kindness out there that we haven’t witnessed in a long time. We need to keep it going.

We will get through these crazy times and we will be a better people because of it. Within every catastrophe lies opportunity.  We should make great use of this time to make some things right and just.

The point of this column is to remember our unsung heroes and we need to let them know that we love them and we support them for life.  I hope everyone is staying safe and I am questioning news I heard today—wine, beer and spirits are up over 50% over last year, isn’t that odd?


Former 40th District Senator Kevin O’Toole is the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

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