Retired FDNY Firefighter Battling 9/11-Related Illness Invited To SOTU

CBS News Radio 880 - February 05, 2020

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — A retired firefighter suffering from a 9/11-related illness will be in the audience when President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell, who extensively covered 9/11 first responders' efforts lobbying Congress to have them renew and replenish the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, says retired FDNY firefighter Rob Serra did not expect the honor.

Serra made over 20 trips to Capitol Hill to fight for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and when the bill passed in July, he assumed he was done with Washington, D.C.

“You know, this is a bit of a different occasion, I’m not going down there to argue with anyone,” he tells Haskell.

Staten Island Congressman Max Rose (D-NY 11th District) invited him as his guest to the speech, which is held in the House Chamber of Congress.

“I’m honored that Max would think of me,” Serra said. “He told me he appreciated all of the work that I did for the bill.”

The 40-year-old spent 12 years with the FDNY before a number of illnesses related to his work at Ground Zero forced him to retire.

Serra says he is hoping President Trump will use his speech to offer a message of unity and positivity.

He especially is hoping for “a little less name calling.”

“I don’t think that’s good for the country, I don’t think it sets a good example for our children,” he notes.

CBS News chief White House correspondent Steven Portnoy told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot and Paul Murnane that Trump aides are expecting the president to focus on the “Great American Come Back.”

“A vision that's relentlessly optimistic, talking about the promises the president made and has helped the ‘Blue Collar Boom’ – that they say is lifting up Americans everywhere,” Portnoy said. “He's going to announce the School Choice Program, talk about expanding paid family leave and lowering healthcare costs.”

Aides tell Portnoy that they are not expecting President Trump to focus on impeachment. But, officials did not guarantee that the president would stick to his speech – especially since Trump will be in the same room as his accusers.

Other guests from the Tri-State area are also expected to be in attendance as Sen. Chuck Schumer announced he will be bringing 6-year-old Jonathan Fisher, of the Bronx, who is fighting a seizure disorder and lung disease.

Sen. Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, has also invited Deborah Davis, an organizer for Mothers United Against Violence and who lost her son in a 2010 shooting.

The president and Firt Lady Melania Trump are bringing 11 special guests to the State of the Union address including a top U.S. Border Patrol agent, a 2-year-old girl born at 21 weeks, and a mother who lost her Army husband to a roadside bomb in Iraq.