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Safety concerns when the earthquake shook Oakhill were real

Published: Sun, July 11, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

The headline read: “Fourth of July and the Oakhill Quake.” Seriously? Editor Todd Franko’s goal was to write about the Oakhill Quake in such a way that “it’s conveniently come back to independence and America as it should, on this important day.”

First of all, it wasn’t the Oakhill Quake. It was a real earthquake that began in Canada. It shook the building twice, a couple of seconds apart. After the second tremor everyone got up and started heading into the hallway. For four flights, we had no idea what happened or if it would happen again. Was it the men working on the other floors? Did someone finally go through with a bomb threat? Was it an earthquake? Personally, all I could think of was 9/11 and all those flights of stairs ... and how people in the second tower were told to go back, that even though their building shook, everything was fine.

The people of Mahoning County Job and Family Services, in particular, have had their share of safety concerns. We are just as tired of our leadership (or lack of leadership), but because we have a “government job with health insurance and a pension,” we are denied our citizenship.

Before 9/11, we did not appreciate our firefighters and policeman. They had to die to get respected. Had the building come down on Oakhill or even part of it — had we died — our leaders would be chastised for not protecting our safety. The news stories would have been about the caliber of people I work with; human interest stories about the people who died, and the lives they touched. Hard working Americans.

Either way, quake or no quake, the newspaper and the political leaders rarely talk about the single most important thing about Oakhill: the clients. They are the other America. Few people acknowledge or recognize this embattled population. These Americans are mentally retarded, mentally ill and chronically ill. Our clients are the elderly, children, men, women, blacks and whites. They are the working poor, intact families who work and struggle to live some form of the American dream.

So, if we want to “come back to independence and America ...”

1. Keep in mind that all people have the right to safety at their job, no matter who signs the paycheck, whether it is a CEO or the citizens of Mahoning County.

2. Sixty-four unborn children lost their fathers in 9/11; their story would have been a great Fourth of July lead in.

3. Instead of being angry that we have health insurance, be angry that not every single American has health care and that in this wealthy land of ours we have deadly curable disease killing our people — no insurance or under insurance.

4. Be grateful, that in this flawed country we have the option of duking it out with the pen instead of the sword.

I am glad “Oakhill Quake 2010” was itty bitty in comparison. I’m glad my mother did not have to read in the paper that I died in a river of concrete and apathy. Even if it means the alternative, that I am a government employee, whose steps are always considered missteps.

Melissa Sellers, Youngstown


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