9/11 Hero's Widow Wants Congress to Pass the Zadroga 9/11 Health Bill Before End of the Year

NY Daily News - December 22, 2010

by Michael Mcauliff

Magda Ryan wants Congress to think about her last Christmas while they ponder whether to head home and celebrate this year - or stay to pass the 9/11 health bill.

A year ago Dec. 25 is the day she lost her husband, city firefighter Jim Ryan, to a cancer his doctors blamed on the poisons he breathed at Ground Zero, first trying to save people, then hauling the dead from the horrifying wreckage.

"I'm anxious. I concerned about how my kids are going to feel on that day," Ryan said Tuesday, looking forward to the tough first anniversary of her life without her husband.

"The only upside is it was Christmas, so we always will be surrounded by family, which is a comfort to me."

The Christmas gift Jim Ryan would have cherished - and which he fought for until his death - is for Congress to pass the law that would help families like his and other sick, dying first responders.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is inches from passage in the Senate, but Republican delays could stall the measure.

House Democrats hinted the proposal must pass the Senate early this week - or risk an uncertain fate.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told The Hill newspaper he'll probably send his members home for the holidays by Wednesday.

"My plea to \[Senate Majority Leader Harry\] Reid is that if you're going to send us anything that we need to deal with, send it, frankly, by \[TUESDAY\]," the Maryland Democrat told The Hill. "My members want to get home for Christmas, and I think bringing them back between Christmas and New Years' -hopefully, I'd like to avoid that."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cailif.) was believed to be more supportive, but leadership sources on the Hill would make no promises. "We'll see what the Senate can get 60 votes for, and then we'll make a decision on how to proceed," an aide said, referring to the number of votes it takes to break a GOP filibuster. Such a filibuster seemed likely, after Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told Politico he'll object to the Zadroga bill.

Hoyer's statements were almost shocking to Magda Ryan, and she can hardly imagine the frustration her husband would feel if he could see Congress considering departing with the Zadroga bill so close.

"You're talking about people who are ill, people who don't know if they have a tomorrow. He did not have a tomorrow where he was last Christmas," Ryan said. "While they \[members of Congress\] are going home having their holiday festivities, someone could be gone by the time they come back."

She knows better than anyone. "Being that it's a year later, I can't say there's been a day that's passed that I don't get sad or think about it," Ryan said.

"They're playing with people's lives - people who have been waiting for quite a bit of time now." Ryan said. "It's so simple for them to go home - what's another day? But what's another day to them is a lifetime for other people."

For more coverage of the Zadroga 9/11 Health Act, go to the Mouth of the Potomac blog.