Some of us can’t stop thinking about it. I woke up this morning to about 60 new text messages from paramedics who are barely holding it together. Some are still sick with the virus. At one point we had 25 percent of EMTs in the city out sick. Others are living in their cars so they don’t risk bringing it home to their families. They’re depressed. They’re emotionally exhausted. They’re drinking too much. They’re lashing out at their kids. They’re having night terrors and panic attacks and all kinds of outbursts. I’ve got five paramedics in the ground from this virus already and a few more on ventilators. Another rookie EMT just committed suicide. He was having trouble coping with what he was seeing. He was a kid — 23 years old. He won’t be the last. I have medics who come to me every day and say, “Is this PTSD I’m feeling?” But technically PTSD comes after the event, and we’re not there yet. It’s ongoing stress and trauma, and we might have months to go.
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.
One thing this pandemic has made clear to me is that our country has become a joke in terms of how it disregards working people and poor people. The rampant inequality. The racism. Mistakes were made at the very top in terms of how we prepared for this virus, and we paid down here at the bottom.
Remember that when some asshat tries to tell you that capitalism is meritocratic. How much do Wall Street bankers get paid? How many lives do they save?