BRUCETON, Tenn. — “Ladies and gentleman,” the Northwest flight attendant intoned last Wednesday evening, “our scheduled flight time from New York to Memphis today is two hours and 39 minutes. And if you’re one of our valued WorldPerks members, you’ll be credited with 986 miles for this flight.”
Intoned! Look at me, just throwing my vocabulary around.
That’s when it hit me: My God, George Martin has walked this. All of it.
You may remember Martin as a 14-year New York Giant, an athletic defensive end who had a few moments of fame, including his sack of John Elway just before halftime of Super Bowl XXI; the safety started the G-men on a run of 26 unanswered points that opened the door to a 39-20 win. Martin is doing something slightly more important now.
I know what you’re saying, What’s more important that football? And I know why you’re saying it, ’cause you spent Monday Morning reading a column, albeit a very good one, about football. Well, let me rain on your parade a little – saving lives is slightly more important than football.
Martin began walking from New York to San Francisco in September, and on Thursday, with me and an HBO crew in tow, he walked the 1,000th mile of his trip just outside this little town. (You can see a profile of Martin’s walk Wednesday night on HBO’s Inside the NFL show. You can even see me keeping up with him for all of Thursday’s 18 miles. And let me tell you, the man can walk.)
And I know this because I, too, can walk. I lost a ton of weight in recent years. See that picture? That’s me, svelte. I don’t know about the pants George is wearing though. Good cause, bad pants, big fella.
Martin is walking to raise money and awareness for the mental and physical health problems that first-responders to the terrorist attacks at Ground Zero have suffered. Martin has raised $1.5 million of his $10 million goal; matching donors at three New York-area hospitals will boost the count to $3 million. Approximately 40,000 firefighters, police, EMS and volunteers have been affected by the inhalation of toxic contaminants from the pulverized buildings — and have contracted lung disease and even cancer — because most worked without protective masks. Even worse, some of those workers don’t have health insurance, and a majority have inadequate health insurance to deal with the onslaught of new treatments they must use to stave off disease. At least eight first-responder deaths, including one of a nun, have been directly connected to Ground-Zero poisoning.
You might ask who I’m going to vote for in the Republican Primary. Well, not Giuliani, that’s for sure, because he hasn’t championed this cause, leaving real champions like George Martin to pick up the slack. Not McCain either, because he’s a little too old for the job. Not Romney, because Mormons give me the willies. Not Thompson because the actor-turned-President has been done already – and done so well. Not Huckabee because he lacks the foreign policy experience to be president. And not one of the members of the lunatic fringe, like Ron Paul, Mike Gravel or Tom Tancredo. So…
“Have you watched film of that day?” Martin asked when we met on this morning. “Watch the scenes of all the people running from the site. Thousands of them. Then watch the people who are actually running toward the site, and watch the firefighters running into the buildings
“It astounds me. It’s so counter-intuitive. But have we forgotten the events of that horrible day? Have we grown tired of the aftermath? If so, shame on us. When the first fatality came, it barely caused a whimper in the media. But I was touched deeply.”
Me too. But I haven’t forgotten, not this American. That’s why I’m proud to announce that I will be supporting the President of 9/11, Rudy Giuliani, in the Republican Primaries. And you should, too. Short of walking 3,300 miles, its the best way to show that you haven’t forgotten. I just think he’ll be tough on terrorism.