9/11 Remembering the First Responders

by Sue Taggart

On Monday, July 29th, President Trump signed a bill to care for the surviving first responders of the 9/11 terror attacks and their families. The bill, which passed 97–2, ensures that victims, first responders, and their families will receive benefits from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, including health care, for 9/11-related deaths and illnesses. The measure — updated from a 2010 version of the bill — keeps the fund going through 2092 and allows applicants to file until 2090. This was weeks after the bill received nationwide attention following impassioned pleas for support from surviving first responders and comedian Jon Stewart.

The bill, formally named the “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act,” is named for several 9/11 responders. Alvarez testified alongside comedian Stewart before a House Judiciary subcommittee urging Congress to pass the legislation. The 53-year-old former NYPD detective, who was diagnosed with cancer linked to his work at the 9/11 site, died just a few weeks after the congressional hearing.

“Less than 24 hours from now I will be starting my 69th round of chemotherapy,” Alvarez told the House subcommittee. “Yeah, you heard that correct. I should not be here with you but you made me come. You made me come because I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11, like me, are valued less than anyone else because of when they get sick they die.”

Our question – why would anyone vote no to this bill?  Why Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee would you vote no? Concerns over the bill’s price tag? Really – shame on you both.

After the bill passed the Senate vote, Paul tweeted “While I support our heroic first responders, I can’t in good conscience vote for legislation which to my dismay remains unfunded. We have a nearly trillion-dollar deficit and $22 trillion in debt. Spending is out of control.”

You cannot put a price on the heroic acts of first responders who run into danger to save others, they do it every day, but on 9/11 it was a day like no other. They had no idea of what they were running into, but they did it without a second thought and then day after day they returned to the “pile” to search for survivors. There were no survivors, there was just toxic dust and mangled remains of the twin towers.

There were many heroes on 9/11, but one who has fought for all of them for 18 years is John Feld.  John who had his foot crushed at Ground Zero in September 2001, began by first fighting against a system that failed to work for him, and then for other survivors, responders, and victims whom U.S. officialdom seemed intent on forgetting.

Chuck Schumer credits Jon Stewart as a key strategist behind the push for a permanent 9/11 fund. But if you ask Stewart, the driving force was a construction worker from Nesconset, Long Island, who called Mitch McConnell an asshole on television—and got him to go along anyway.

“His passion and his energy forced them to make the moral choice, and as simple as it sounds, to do the right thing,” Stewart said. “He refused to give up… He carried them through, at every turn. This thing could have died a thousand deaths, and he wouldn’t let it happen.”

Since 9/11, there have been more than 2,077 certified cancer conditions in firefighters caused by the toxins breathed in on September 11 and afterward. In total, there have been 9,300 registered cancer conditions related to the aftermath. More people have now died because of toxins breathed in at ground zero sites than did during the September 11th attacks.

Related Posts