Every September 11, I remember this surprising story about Steve Buscemi.

Image via the Brotherhood of Fire Facebook page.

Steve Buscemi, the veteran actor with the one-in-a-million face, known for his depictions of weirdos and gangsters, inspires a lot of creative description: The Guardian referred to him as a “strangely attractive shoelace” and one critic recalled Buscemi as “pale, almost pallid—as if he’d been reared in a mushroom cellar.”

The Independent once suggested an “unvarnished ordinariness” was the heart of Buscemi’s appeal. He has been said to look like Don Knotts, John Waters, and Angelina Jolie.

Less frequently noted, though, than the Boardwalk Empire star’s fascinatingly famous features are the details of his life before acting, when he worked as an FDNY firefighter in downtown Manhattan. That’s right, Mr. Pink used to pull people out of burning buildings for a living.


And in September 2013, a post on the Brotherhood of Fire Facebook page informed the world that the actor regrouped with his old engine company in the days after 9/11, lending a hand when it was needed the most. Beneath a picture of Buscemi, it read:

Do you recognize this man? Do you know his name?Lots of people know he's an actor, and that his name is Steve Buscemi.What very few people realize is that he was once one of New York's Bravest.In 1976 Steve Buscemi took the FDNY civil service test when he was just 18 years old. In 1980 Steve Buscemi became a New York City Firefighter.For four years, Buscemi served on one of FDNY's busiest, Engine Co. 55 in Manhattan's Little Italy. He later left the fire service to become a successful actor, writer and director.After 9/11/2001... Brother Buscemi returned to FDNY Engine 55.On September 12, 2001 and for several days following Brother Steve worked 12-hour shifts alongside other firefighters digging and sifting through the rubble from the World Trade Center looking for survivors.Very few photographs and no interviews exist because he declined them. He wasn't there for the publicity.In 2003 he also gave a speech at a union rally supporting higher wages for firefighters and to stop fire houses from closing. He got arrested along with other firefighters.Also not very well known is that in 2012 Brother Buscemi showed up in Breezy Point, NY and quietly assisted in the clean-up efforts of the damage and mass destruction left by Super Storm Sandy.Once a brother, always a brother!Just so we're clear… this guy is a Badass!!!Tip of the helmet Brother Steve!

In a world of Kardashians and Charlie Sheens, it’s always great to hear inspiring stories like this about successful people in film and television.

And those of us who were in New York the morning the planes hit remember the chaos and fear; every set of capable hands was needed. But even “notable” stories like Buscemi’s contribution after the attack are just the tip of the heroic iceberg, an introduction to the amazing narratives of selflessness and courage that define the experience of our active firefighters and emergency service workers.

That’s why in 2014 Buscemi hosted the HBO documentary A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY, presenting “behind-the-scenes footage and firsthand accounts” of what it’s like to work as a firefighter in New York. According to the film’s official description, it captures, “camaraderie and the bonds formed around firehouse kitchen tables, the cumulative effect of trauma, both physical and mental, and the stories—the good, the bad and the exciting.”

In the September 11 attacks and their aftermath, 343 firefighters from 75 firehouses gave their lives to protect and rescue others and many FDNY personnel are still suffering from illness, injury, and trauma.

“Firefighters are great at helping others,” Buscemi told CBS News last year. “They're great at helping each other. But they're not always—they don't always know that they, themselves, are in need …  Their first reaction would be, ‘Oh, the next guy has it worse, you know?”

Image via Twitter user ClassicNavalAir.

Buscemi, who grew up on Long Island and now resides in Brooklyn, also serves on the Board of Advisors for Friends of Firefighters, an organization that looks out for the welfare of New York City’s firefighters and their families. Beyond fundraising and publicity, though, it seems the personal bonds and sense of responsibility he formed at the Department were strong enough that 20 years after he served he was still willing to throw himself physically into the fray.

“It was a privilege to be able to do it,” Buscemi said at the time of his efforts at ground zero. “It was great to connect with the firehouse I used to work with and with some of the guys I worked alongside. And it was enormously helpful for me because while I was working, I didn't really think about it as much, feel it as much.”He continued, “It wasn't until I stopped that I really felt the full impact of what had happened. It would have been much harder for me to get through it if I hadn't been able to do that.”

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

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Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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