By Marc Kovac
Gov. John Kasich used a morning memorial service to call for unity among people of differing opinions.
Union workers used an afternoon rally to call for Kasich’s ouster over his handling of the state’s economy and jobs policies that they say will hurt firefighters, police officers and others who put their lives on the line.
Both events took place within sight of thousands of U.S. flags spread across the lawn outside the Ohio Statehouse in memory of the safety forces and civilians who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The governor’s comments came during a ceremony of remembrance, with a focus on the firefighters who died at the World Trade Center. Lt. Tony Mussorfiti, a retired New York City firefighter who responded on Sept. 11, offered a moving description of firefighters’ efforts to save lives that day.
More than 340 firefighters lost their lives in the span of about an hour and a half. Nineteen of the 22 members of his firehouse who responded were killed.
“Civilian lives lost, over 2,700,” Mussorfiti said. “The mayor’s office estimated civilian lives saved, over 25,000, because of the actions of the first responders — police, fire and EMS — who would not leave their positions.”
Kasich described his own experience visiting ground zero nine days after the attacks.
“As people were pouring out of the Trade Center, [first responders] loaded with all this heavy equipment, they’re running up the stairs,” he said. “People pouring down the stairs, and they’re running up the stairs. They knew where they were going.”
He added later, “That was a time of unity in our country. We need it again. ... We are Americans, got a lot of challenges and a lot of problems in our country. None too big for us not to solve. But we can’t waste our time with divisions and polarizations and name calling and anger. Let’s respect people that may not think the way we think.”
A couple of hours later, several hundred union protesters chanted and marched in front of the Statehouse and the downtown Columbus building that houses state lawmaker offices, voicing their opposition to Kasich.
The workers, representing the Service Employees International Union 1199 and other central Ohio groups, held signs protesting the state budget and other policies supported by the governor.
The rally came a day after President Barack Obama’s national speech outlining his plan for jump-starting the U.S. economy.
“The budget that Gov. Kasich proposed and was passed by the General Assembly is going to cost Ohio 51,000 good-paying jobs that help families survive,” said Anthony A. Caldwell, a spokesman for SEIU 1199.
“The budget was bad and is hurting working-class families.”