Give 9/11 First Responders The Care They Deserve


Never Forget Project

Politicians have no excuse for not funding healthcare for 9/11 first responders.

Tom Hopkins, Staff Writer

9/11 first responders are fighting for health care. Again.

The firefighters, police officers, EMTs and paramedics who rushed toward unfathomable danger and chaos to sift through debris and human remains in search of survivors still do not have permanent health care coverage. According to a study published by Environmental Health Perspectives, between 60,000 and 70,000 first responders were exposed to “dust containing high levels of airborne pollutants” and toxic fumeswhile at Ground Zero.

Because of this exposure, 9/11 first responders are much more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than the general population. According to federally sponsored studies, 9/11 first responders are 15 percent more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, 21 percent more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 239 percent more likely to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer than the rest of us.

As a nation, we hail our first responders as heroes. Politicians, when the cameras are around, heap praise on them. We remember them at memorials and we honor them at sporting events. There are countless television shows and movies glorifying them. But when it comes to ensuring that they will have health care for life, Congress does not step up.

Back in 2010, 157 Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and now Vice President Mike Pence, voted against the Zadroga Act, which aimed to provide health care and compensation to the first responders of the 9/11 terror attacks. Nonetheless, the bill overcame Republican opposition and was passed in December 2010 and subsequently renewed in 2015, as well as extended coverage until 2090.

But now, just four years later, the funding is running out.

Jon Stewart, former host of “The Daily Show,” has stepped up in support of the first responders’ health care, just as he did in 2010 and again in 2015. In a press conference last week, Stewart said it was “beyond [his] comprehension” why first responders are having to fight for their health care to be funded for the third time.

It should be beyond everyone’s comprehension. It is senseless. This behavior from our so-called leaders in the nation’s capital is embarrassing, callous and sub-human.

As the richest country in the world, this should not be that complicated. Take care of those who risked their lives on one of the most important days in American history. This is a no-brainer.

It is absolutely mind-numbing that Congress has not figured out how to do this yet. They can figure out how to jam a wildly unpopular tax cut for the wealthy down our throats. But when it comes to funding health care for our ailing heroes, they just cannot figure it out. The political savvy somehow eludes them. It is pathetic and it is a disgrace.

414 first responders died on 9/11. Thousands were injured and thousands more have lifelong health problems stemming from their work that day. As the iconic Twin Towers burned up and collapsed, they put their lives on the line to save others. It’s time we honor their sacrifice with actions to secure their care, not words.