It really became personal for me when the USNS Comfort arrived in New York City.
I looked across the river as I was driving in this morning and had a flashback to the morning 18 ½ years ago when I was told that a small plane had crashed into the Trade Center. Our lives all changed at that moment, just as they have now.
I remember having the USNS Comfort come then. However, we didn't need it for what we need it for now. We didn't need it for people who needed hospital care. We needed it for crisis counseling for a lot of fire chiefs and police officers who were really, really overcome with the grief they faced from the death of their friends and people that they worked with. And we needed it to house and feed federal workers who came to support New York City and the Nation. I’ll never forget the feeling, and how perfect the names are, the "Comfort" and "Mercy." I was told their predecessors were here in 1918 for the pandemic we had then.
The federal government has always been here to support the city. The Army, the Navy, the Marines, they've always been here for us when we needed them. And they're here again for us now. I get flashbacks knowing that the city is under such stress now, and once again, it is personal for me. I spent 30 years in the fire department, so when September 11th happened, it was personal. Those lost were colleagues. They were leaders. They were friends. Everyone was affected by September 11th. And that's what's happening now.
Everyone is affected by the coronavirus in one way or another - a friend, a relative, a loved one that you can't go and see because they're in quarantine. I stopped to speak with a 100-year-old lady last week and stood six feet away. And I know everybody has put in this same care and effort.
I know how tough the people of this city are, and I’ve seen us take on some seemingly insurmountable challenges. Once again, we will take on this challenge together, even if its six feet apart. What we're all going through is strange, but it's necessary, and it is going to make a difference. The more we separate, the more everybody stays away, the better off we'll be and the faster we'll get out of this.
After September 11th, it seemed like every day we were fixing stuff, and it was getting slightly better. The grief, of course, was enormous, but the operation seemed to get slightly better every day. With this, we’re not there yet.
Help has arrived and it's going to make a big difference. These visible signs of what our government is bringing to bear to help New York will help us defeat this pandemic. FEMA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are working with the city and state to supply everything we possibly can to expand the medical capacity as quickly as possible. We're working to find solutions and doing all we can to slow the spread and treat those who need help.
Your government will be here for you. I’m really proud to be part of it.