After the 9/11 attacks, a spirit of hope, determination and unity took hold of our city and nation; a palpable feeling that together no challenge was too great for us to tackle.
We all knew the attacks that killed thousands and shattered lives had changed our way of life forever. But we also came through it with a sense of our own resilience as a people, city and nation. As we buried our dead, took care of the injured and focused on rebuilding, one of the lessons that emerged was a need for better security.
A report by the national 9/11 Commission pointed out that 85% of our country's infrastructure is protected by private-sector security rather than police or other government agencies.
It became clear that in our efforts to guard against terrorism, the hard-working men and women in private security perform a vital function. They serve as our eyes and ears, forming a key first line of defense.
It also became evident that in a field so key to the public's security and safety, training for officers was often inadequate or spotty, and turnover was unacceptably high. Top-quality training along with fair compensation levels was needed to ensure a professional and stable work force in this vital industry.
In response to this challenge, the Thomas Shortman Training Fund, a joint labor-management organization, spearheaded an effort to raise industry standards by working in conjunction with the New York City Police and Fire Departments, the Realty Advisory Board, the Partnership for New York City, the Office of Emergency Management, John Jay College, and others to develop a state-of-the-art security training program. Many officers have since completed this 40-hour program in which topics covered include emergency preparedness, identification of suspicious packages, security technology, and support for police, fire and emergency operations.
Much progress has been made. But more remains to be done.
To ensure a high level of security and safety across our city - at commercial buildings; residential complexes; transportation centers, tourist sites and public and educational institutions where New Yorkers work and live, all private security officers need to receive both the best possible training and recognition for the vital role they play.
This issue hits close to home for 32BJ. Ten years ago, when the planes hit the Twin Towers, 350 of our members were at work there. Twenty-four died. Ten were security officers.
That loss deepened our sense of resolve and responsibility to raise standards in the security industry. Making sure that people and institutions are safe and secure is our way of helping to meet one of the pressing challenges to come out of this tragedy.
None of us needs to be reminded that since 9/11, other terrorists have targeted and threatened our city. We also know that making our city safe and secure can't happen overnight. But by ensuring that all security officers are provided with the professional training they need to keep us secure, by raising standards in the industry, we move closer toward achieving this critical goal.
On this, the 10th anniversary, let us recapture our sense of unity and determination to tackle the challenges that remain.
Mike Fishman is President of 32BJ, which represents 120,000 workers in eight states, including more than 10,000 security officers in New York City.