NY Post - June 10, 2019by Ben Cohn and Lee Brown
The 9/11 victims compensation fund is expected to get crucial funding to help extend it for years when it finally hits Congress next week, it was announced at a Ground Zero rally on Sunday.
“I’m told that we have 330 representatives that have signed on so we are very optimistic … that this should be passed,” announced Gerard Fitzgerald, the president of the FDNY-Firefighters Association.
The bill would extend funding beyond 2020, when it’s set to end — and also drastically increase the pot which is quickly running out, overwhelmed by thousands suffering serious injuries years after working at Ground Zero.
“Nearly 18 years have passed but firefighters and first responders are still battling serious health problems caused by their exposure from working on the rubble of September 11,” said Fitzgerald, blaming the “toxic soup” left at the site of the Twin Towers.
“We anticipate more firefighters to be diagnosed and unfortunately die in the future. Victims and families … need this compensation.”
Politicians from both sides of the aisle put their differences aside at the rally for a last-minute push backing the fund before it hits the floor.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was joined by fellow Democrat Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, along with Republicans including Peter King.
Mayor Bill de Blasio was a notable absence — just as he stayed away from the opening of a 9/11 memorial last month — once again sparking the ire of many firefighters at the rally, even though he was not formally invited.
“His job is here,” griped retired Engine 5 firefighter Gerard Gorman.
“I’m glad that the rest of country gets to see what we’re stuck with here.”
The politicians spoke passionately in support of the bill.
“That was the day that our definition of hero changed,” Ocasio-Cortez told the rally of 9/11, when she was just 12.
“We have to be there for our heroes no matter what. No matter the cost.
“Because if we can’t get health care for these folks, how can we get healthcare for anybody?”
Noting the support from both major parties, she stressed, “We are putting all of our differences aside to say that some things must transcend politics because they’re the right thing to do.”
Congressman Nadler called initial claims that Ground Zero was safe “a sin beyond belief.”
“We bear the moral responsibility for that too. Many people are sick who needn’t have been sick had proper precautions been taken then,” he said.
Noting that the overall cost of what the bill seeks has not been calculated, he stressed, “The cost will be far, far less than the price already paid by first responders, and it’s our moral obligation to fund it — and we will fund it.
“Whatever it is — we must pay.”
Congresswoman Maloney stressed that soon more people will have died from illnesses blamed on Ground Zero toxins than were killed in the attack itself.
“9/11 first responders were there for us. We need to be there for them and to show them that we truly meant that we will never forget,” she said.
“The way we show that is by passing this bill.
“Our whole country owes them a tremendous debt — a debt that we can never fully repay.”
Retired firefighter Gary Smiley claimed six of his former colleagues have died from 9/11 illnesses in the last week alone.
“We shouldn’t have people looking over their shoulder wondering when they are going to get cancer and how they’re going to pay for it,” he said.