In a ground shattering instant, thousands of lives were lost. A community was transformed into an unfamiliar warzone full of people who were suddenly lost, fearful, and detached from the rest of the world. The way of life as they knew it was shattered; families lost loved ones and friends without a forewarning, a chance to escape or say their goodbyes. Despite massive rescue efforts the mass desperation seemed hopeless. Many of you reading this may assume that I am describing the events in Haiti, but the horrific scene I am depicting happened in our own country on September 11, 2001.
Of the 40,000 people who responded to Ground Zero after the attacks, 70 percent, or 33,000, are sick, dying, or have already died as a result of their service. More than one third of the uniformed and non-uniformed workers and volunteers who responded to the search and clean-up were from New Jersey. Few people in the tri-state area were not directly impacted in some way by theses terrorist attacks, but the rest of the country may only remember the catastrophic event and not realize that people are still suffering the aftermath today. Sadly, there is an epidemic going on in our own backyards and many Americans are not even fully aware that it is happening.
Most recently, the Obama Administration outraged Americans when they announced the President would not back the Congressional bill that would guarantee long-term funding for healthcare and research for Ground Zero workers. Because of the backlash from 9/11 first responders, residents and lawmakers, the Administration reversed course and announced that President Obama would double next year’s budget for treating the sick to $150 million.
In an effort to bring this vital issue to light, I have been working with the 9/11 survivor group, the Feal Good Foundation headed by first responder John Feal, which raises awareness of this issue, the services available to these individuals, and the need for insurance claims to be funded for those who are experiencing health related illnesses from the toxic air quality in the weeks following September 11th, 2001.
John Feal is leading the charge to see that House Resolution 847 be passed to provide financial resources for insurance claims submitted by first responders. On the state level, I sponsored bill, ACR-237, which was passed by the Assembly that urges Congress to pass this resolution to extend and improve protections and services to individuals directly impacted by September 11th.
It is estimated that more people will die from the aftermath of 9/11 than those who perished in the attacks. To date, over 800 first responders have died. In addition, a 2006 medical study of fire fighters reported that those personnel who inhaled Ground Zero air essentially lost 12 years of lung function. The World Trade Center Health registry has tracked the health of individuals seriously exposed to the twin towers attack, and of the more than 71,000 registrants, nearly 50,000 are residents of New York and New Jersey. It is clear that a permanent solution needs to be created to assist the 9/11 responders in need. Along with my colleague Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini, I have urged President Obama to dedicate permanent federal funding for the 9/11 first responders who are sick and dying as a result of their heroic actions following the terrorist attacks.
Communities across the nation came together and to date have raised nearly 4 million dollars to support the people suffering in Haiti. We are capable of achieving amazing feats when we come together as Americans and it is vital that we now exhibit the same kind of commitment to our hometown heroes who are the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
I urge all concerned citizens to contact Congressman Frank Pallone, chairman of the House Health Subcommittee, as he has the power to bring the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to a vote in his committee, which could then send it to the full House for consideration. The funds will support health care for the heroes who put their lives on the line to save others who are now experiencing the devastating aftermath of being exposed to Ground Zero. It is unjustifiable that they have had to fight so hard to receive funding for care and I encourage all residents to join me in standing up for the victims and heroes of 9/11 who deserve our support.
Source: New Jersey News Room
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