Opinion - What 9/11 heroes deserve
What can bring together a Republican from farm country and a Democrat from midtown Manhattan? Our 9/11 heroes.
On Sept. 11, 2001, 2,997 people were taken from us — killed just for living, working or being in United States.
But the death toll from 9/11 is much higher that that alarming number, and it is growing by the day. In the days, weeks, months and years since the attacks, first responders, volunteers and survivors have been diagnosed with illnesses caused by the toxins at and around Ground Zero.
These people were told by our government that it was safe to breathe the air, drink the water, go back to school and work. But as we now know, thanks in no small part to the reporting of the Daily News, that could not have been further from the truth.
Thousands of people are now living with or have already died from chronic illnesses, cancer, respiratory diseases and a whole host of other conditions. More than 11,000 responders and survivors have been certified as having a 9/11-related cancer.
When those planes hit, tens of thousands of firefighters, police officers, federal and local law enforcement officers, medical workers, construction workers, and other heroes selflessly rushed to Ground Zero, the Pentagon and the Shanksville, Pa., crash site to dig through the rubble, first for survivors, and then, for months, for remains.
After 9/11, we vowed to never forget. With that promise comes a commitment to making sure those men and women and their families never have to go without the support they need.
And so, today, the House Committee on the Judiciary is holding a hearing about what we need to do to live up to our promise.
In February, I introduced the bipartisan Never Forget the Heroes Act with Congressmen Jerry Nadler and Peter King, both of New York, to fully fund and extend, through 2090, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).
In 2016, Congress made the World Trade Center Health Program permanent for these responders and survivors. And even though we fought for the same for the VCF, it was only given an extension through 2020. Making matters worse, in February, the fund’s special master announced that due to increases in claims, the fund doesn’t have enough money to even make it to 2020. They have had to reduce the money paid to participants by 50-70%. This is devastating for first responders, volunteers, survivors and their families.
This isn’t just a New York problem. There are more than 95,000 responders and survivors living in every state across 433 of the U.S. House’s 435 districts. Our whole country owes them a debt.
I’m incredibly proud that more than 300 members of the House have already cosponsored the Never Forget the Heroes Act, and that this list includes not only the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (Nadler), but also the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Doug Collins, Republican of Georgia. We can also count Democratic Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) as supporters of the bill.
It is a refreshing sight to see so many people coming together to get something so important done in this age of partisanship and such a divided Congress. I’m glad my colleagues have recognized that this isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue, or a New York and New Jersey issue. Americans of all political parties across the country are relying on us. I’m proud to one of the many standing up to show our heroes that they will never be forgotten.
Maloney represents Manhattan’s East Side, Astoria, Long Island City, Williamsburg, Greenpoint and other neighborhoods in the U.S. House of Representatives.