The Washington Post this week profiled Lt. Anthony Almojera, vice president of AFSCME Local 3621 (District Council 37) and a paramedic for the Fire Department of New York. The story was told in Almojera’s own words. What follows is an excerpt of that story. To read the full story, go here.
“Nobody wants to know about what I do. People might pay us lip service and say we’re heroes, but our stories aren’t the kind anyone actually wants to hear about. Kids in this country grow up with toy firetrucks, or maybe playing cops and robbers, but who dreams of becoming a paramedic? That’s ambulances. That’s death and vulnerability – the scary stuff. We’re taught in this culture to shun illness like it’s something shameful. We’d rather pretend everything’s fine. We look the other way.
“That’s what’s happening now in New York. We just had 20,000-some people die in this city, and already the crowds are lining back up outside restaurants and jamming into bars. This virus is still out there. We respond to 911 calls for COVID every day. I’ve been on the scene at more than 200 of these deaths – trying to revive people, consoling their families – but you can’t even be bothered to stay six feet apart and wear a mask, because why? You’re a tough guy? It makes you look weak? You’d rather ignore the whole thing and pretend you’re invincible? …
“Do you know how much EMTs make in New York City? We start at $35,000. We top out at $48,000 after five years. That’s nothing. That’s a middle finger. It’s about 40 percent less than fire, police and corrections — and those guys deserve what they get. But we have three times the call volume of fire. There are EMTs on my team who’ve been pulling double shifts in a pandemic and performing life support for 16 hours, and then they go home and they have to drive Uber to pay their rent. I’m more than 15 years on the job, and I still work two side gigs. One of my guys does part-time at a grocery store.
“Heroes, right? The anger is blinding.” Read Almojera’s full first-hand account of the crisis here.
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