Not only have military women in uniform been minimalized or left out of the press and televison focus but our media oriented culture also ignores many other fine women serving in uniform. When you look at the picture above do you think men or women? For decades women have been police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians but you never see Julia Roberts or Gwyneth Paltrow portraying them in a film, nor do you see Jeri Ryan or Jennifer Garner in a Navy uniform on television. Yet there are countless stories to be told about our American women in uniform - whether it be fire, police or military. A classic and timely example of this on-going media slight is "Ground Zero".

Within minutes of the terrible events of September 11th in New York City, fire, police and rescue personnel responded without hesitation and laid their lives on the line. Women were definitely a part of these heroic actions - yet the media once more relegated their actions to the "back pages".

According to Lt. Brenda Berkman of the NYC Fire Department in a recent speech, after mentioning the women of the Fire Department, Lt Berkman said:

"There were also countless women EMT's, New York City police officers, Port Authority police officers and other emergency workers who responded immediately. Three uniformed women lost their lives that day: Port Authority Captain Kathy Mazza, NYPD officer Moira Smith, and EMT Yamel Merino, who was working for a private ambulance service. Many more women were injured trying to save others -- women who literally had to have pieces of the buildings removed from their bodies, women who suffered broken bones and other injuries requiring hospitalization.

Within hours of the first plane, Ground Zero was flooded with other women emergency workers and volunteers. Women by the dozens came from all over the country as part of search-and-rescue and other firefighter teams. Women nurses and doctors, women construction workers, women chaplains, military women, Red Cross women -- women volunteering in every capacity, every minute of those first days and weeks. Women continue to work at Ground Zero today. Women and men have worked together as one, desperately searching for any sign of life."

The generations of young women that follow should know that women are saving lives, facing danger and serving with pride in many different uniforms - if the media won't tell them then it's up to us to educate them.


The history of women in firefighting is a fascinating one and details of their valiant service in this dangerous profession can be found at the Women in Fire Service website WFSI .

Also check out - "TAKING THE HEAT: The First Women Firefighters of New York City."by Independent Lens for PBS.
Profiling the eventful career of Captain Brenda Berkman, TAKING THE HEAT tells the story of the first women firefighters' struggle for fairness.
Taking the Heat

 firefighter book

A new book "Women at Ground Zero" by Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba is a collection of interviews with thirty exceptional women who either responded directly to the attack on September 11 or have been intensely involved in the rescue and recovery efforts since the tragedy. It features photographs and interviews with women firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, police officers, and many others. The three female rescuers who died in the collapse are remembered through stories shared by their co-workers, family and friends. For more about the book visit Women at Ground Zero

Women have been saving lives for centuries, in many fields - firefighters, police officers, medics, and the military - yet the media still focuses on heroes - not heroines. In times of crisis women will act equally as brave - and heroines will emerge - for heroism knows no gender.

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Unless otherwise noted content © 1996 to date by Captain Barbara A. Wilson, USAF (Ret)