Reporter’s Notebook: Women of 9/11 still fighting for recognition, respect

By Soledad O’Brien for CNN – 2011  A few weeks ago, a group of about two dozen female rescue workers walked onto the platform overlooking ground zero.

Most had not seen the place in years, not since big iron beams rose into the sky to build the skeletons of a new office complex, not since the footprints of the Twin Towers were filled with black stone and waterworks, not since all the progress that followed those dark days back …

… THEN.

New York Police Department Deputy Inspector Terri Tobin was buried in the rubble of the old towers twice on September 11, 2001. She had a huge glass pane lodged in her back and cinder block cut her skull. She rose from the debris like some kind of superhero and rescued people who were in a panic — the injured, the desperate, the scared. At one point, she clung mightily to one man’s arm and said: “I’m with the NYPD. I’m not gonna let go.”

She didn’t let go. None of these women let go.

Capt. Brenda Berkman searched relentlessly for her fellow firefighters. She still cries, to this day, about the 343 who died. She knew most of them. Officer Carey Policastro searched the pile of debris for weeks, exposing herself to horrible conditions. Then she dedicated herself to preparing for the next attack, training first responders around the country.

There were women from the Salvation Army and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, emergency medical technicians and clergy.

There were plenty of female journalists there, too, including one of my producers, Rose Arce. She was featured in a book called “Women At Ground Zero” — along with all these first responders — written by Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba, two California authors who wanted to memorialize the accounts of the women. That book was published nearly 10 years ago and memory fades.

A few months ago one of the female firefighters from that book came to speak to the kindergarten class of my producer’s daughter. A little boy asked her how she could be a “fireman” if she was a girl.

In answer to that question, we produced a documentary that premieres on Labor Day at 11 p.m. ET and PT. It is called “Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11.” It chronicles the heroics and hardship of these women as they have worked to repair our nation in the decade since the terrorist attacks. As one woman in the documentary says: “Little boys and little girls need to know” that women were there and served with courage.

Reporter’s Notebook: Women of 9/11 still fighting for recognition, respect

By Soledad O’Brien for CNN – 2011  A few weeks ago, a group of about two dozen female rescue workers walked onto the platform overlooking ground zero.

Most had not seen the place in years, not since big iron beams rose into the sky to build the skeletons of a new office complex, not since the footprints of the Twin Towers were filled with black stone and waterworks, not since all the progress that followed those dark days back …

… THEN.

New York Police Department Deputy Inspector Terri Tobin was buried in the rubble of the old towers twice on September 11, 2001. She had a huge glass pane lodged in her back and cinder block cut her skull. She rose from the debris like some kind of superhero and rescued people who were in a panic — the injured, the desperate, the scared. At one point, she clung mightily to one man’s arm and said: “I’m with the NYPD. I’m not gonna let go.”

She didn’t let go. None of these women let go.

Capt. Brenda Berkman searched relentlessly for her fellow firefighters. She still cries, to this day, about the 343 who died. She knew most of them. Officer Carey Policastro searched the pile of debris for weeks, exposing herself to horrible conditions. Then she dedicated herself to preparing for the next attack, training first responders around the country.

There were women from the Salvation Army and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, emergency medical technicians and clergy.

There were plenty of female journalists there, too, including one of my producers, Rose Arce. She was featured in a book called “Women At Ground Zero” — along with all these first responders — written by Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba, two California authors who wanted to memorialize the accounts of the women. That book was published nearly 10 years ago and memory fades.

A few months ago one of the female firefighters from that book came to speak to the kindergarten class of my producer’s daughter. A little boy asked her how she could be a “fireman” if she was a girl.

In answer to that question, we produced a documentary that premieres on Labor Day at 11 p.m. ET and PT. It is called “Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11.” It chronicles the heroics and hardship of these women as they have worked to repair our nation in the decade since the terrorist attacks. As one woman in the documentary says: “Little boys and little girls need to know” that women were there and served with courage.