TIME OUT with Joe Flanagan

I’m sure it’s safe to say we still vividly remember 9/11. It’s a tragic event forever seared into our memory.
Memorial Day is a time when we pause to remember those no longer with us. This may include victims of that horrible day, as well as those who have lost their lives serving our country through the years and past family members.
There’s another story from 9/11 that has slowly faded from public conciousness, however, and a story of one man’s determined effort to shed light back on those who may have now been forgotten.
At the time, everyone admired the “heroes” of the 9/11 tradgedy – the countless brave rescue workers and volunteers who toiled in the terrible conditions of Ground Zero and swelled our pride as fellow Americans.
During the weeks and months following 9/11, the media spotlight shined on these dedicated individuals and people around the nation poured out praise and thanks for their efforts.
Now, the years have passed and, while we often take a moment to silently remember all who lost their lives, do we also still remember those who valiantly answered the call to duty and survived?
Many of the rescue and recovery workers who rushed to aid in the aftermath of 9/11 have become sick from respiratory and other diseases that can cause permanent disability. Unbelievably, some have even lost their jobs and have no further health insurance.
Last year, one man – retired New York Giants defensive end George Martin – became aware of the plight of these “heroes” and set out on a mission to not only remember them, but bring them aid in their hour of need.
Martin began “A Journey for 9/11 – Supporting the Heroes of Ground Zero” – a journey in which he vowed to walk across our great nation, from New York to California, to raise awareness and funds for this multitude of Americans afflicted simply by their valor.
He is nearing the completion of this incredible undertaking, currently trekking through Arizona on the way to his final-destination arrival in San Diego, scheduled for June 21. He has traveled over 2,650 miles to date. Yes, you read that correctly – over 2,650 miles!
At this point, Martin’s effort has raised nearly two million dollars, along with approximately another $900,000 in goods and services. There’s no doubt this will do much good.
However, in a column for a week ago, Peter King noted that Martin was a bit discouraged. He really believed he would be well beyond that amount by this time (although he admitted that his original goal of 10 million might have been a little “pie-in-the-sky”).
Not that he isn’t thankful for what has been donated – and not that he’s giving up, by any means. It’s just that this means so much to George Martin.
“I’ve never wanted the journey to supersede the mission,” he told King. “I’ve wanted it to be about the emergency workers suffering some form of ailment from rushing to help at Ground Zero, people who can’t get enough medical help from their health insurance and need further help. It’s so crucial. It’s perplexing. Maybe my goal was set too high, but I’m disappointed the response hasn’t been as much as I’d hoped for.”
When I read this, my thought was that, maybe, many hadn’t heard about George Martin and his journey. Many might not even be aware that these emergency workers and volunteers are suffering so.
This is my small part in spreading the word.
In his SI column, King noted that it is nearly closing time for Martin’s inspired journey – he is nearing the home stretch. King and others in the national media have tried to alert readers, reminding those who had heard of the effort and informing those who hadn’t.
I realize these aren’t the easiest of times. Our own health insurance costs are exhorbitant, gas prices are soaring and the cost of food and other services continue to rise, as well.
However, it doesn’t take a lot for each of us to help. That’s the underlying theme of charity – many giving a little can do a large amount of good.
These rescue workers didn’t set out to be heroes. They merely followed their conscience and their call to duty. They haven’t even asked for help in their time of need. Another “hero”, George Martin, has – and rightly so.
Martin has basically given up nine months of his life to draw attention to the plight of people we called heroes, people who now need help to breathe.
It’s time for us to support them now.
(To learn more about George Martin, his mission and to donate, go to