Maloney, Nadler, King & ailing 9/11 heroes unite at Ground Zero to urge Congress to extend the Zadroga Act and make it permanent

Sep 3, 2015
Press Release
First responders suffering with cancers, respiratory problems, and other illnesses say people will die if 9/11 health and compensation programs expire

Maloney, Nadler, King & ailing 9/11 heroes unite at Ground Zero to urge Congress to extend the Zadroga Act and make it permanent
First responders suffering with cancers, respiratory problems, and other illnesses say people will die if 9/11 health and compensation programs expire

NEW YORK – As the 14th Anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks approaches, ailing first responders and survivors today joined Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Congressman Peter King (NY-2) and others to call on Congress to prevent the expiration of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Without congressional action, the World Trade Center Health Program and the Victim Compensation Fund will expire next year, leaving over 70,000 9/11 responders and survivors in all 50 states without the care and support they need to recover from 9/11 related illnesses.

“The heroes of 9/11 who fought the flames and inhaled the dust are being forced to wage a battle on two fronts: a fight to survive the illnesses related to their service at Ground Zero, and a fight on Capitol Hill to ensure the health and compensation they rely on don’t disappear,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “They’ve endured chemotherapy, daily asthma attacks, permanent disabilities, post-traumatic stress, and other terrible illnesses. They live the consequences of 9/11 daily. It’s not enough to praise their heroism. It’s time for politicians in Washington to honor their sacrifice by permanently extending the Zadroga Act.”

“Fourteen years after the attacks of 9/11, we must remember the sacrifices of first responders and survivors and continue to support the World Trade Center Health Program and the Victim Compensation Fund,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act cannot be allowed to expire. It is not right that the victims and those who risked their own lives to save others on 9/11 may be forgotten if Congress does not act. I urge my colleagues to take action in order to ensure that these men and women continue to have access to the health coverage and compensation they so desperately need and deserve.”

“To this day too many of our 9/11 responders and survivors continue to fight serious illnesses, including more than 60 types of cancer caused by 9/11 toxins,” said Congressman Peter King. “This reauthorization is critical for these individuals and their families. We have come too far and we must continue to ensure that our 9/11 heroes receive the care they deserve.”

"On 9/11, first responders answered our call for help when we needed them most.  Yet, with the 14th anniversary approaching, many are still forced to deal with the enduring after-effects of their service at Ground Zero.  We owe it to them to reauthorize the Zadroga Act so they can continue to receive the care they rely on,” said Congressman Frank Pallone, Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.  “I am glad we were able to secure a hearing in my Committee, which was a critical first step toward passage.  But as the anniversary approaches and as expiration of the program draws closer every day, Congress must redouble its efforts and renew its commitment to our 9/11 heroes.”

"With many first-responders and volunteers still struggling with the health effects from 9/11, Congress has a moral obligation to do everything possible to help those heroes," said Congressman Eliot Engel, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. "It is still amazing to me just how difficult it was to pass the original James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act in 2010, and it is equally stunning there are some in Congress who do not consider its reauthorization to be a priority in 2015. It is only right to take care of the men and women who put others ahead of their own health and safety. As a cosponsor of the original law and the reauthorization bill in the House, I stand with my colleagues and the first responders today to say the Zadroga Act must be extended and finally made permanent.”

"We don’t leave our injured soldiers on the battlefield, and we certainly shouldn’t leave the 9/11 first responders who are at increased risk for cancer and other ailments with no funding,” said Congressman Charles Rangel. “While we can never fully express our gratitude for their sacrifices and patriotism, we can provide them the care they need and deserve. I am proud to stand alongside my dear friends and colleagues to stand up for the heroes who now most need our help."

Nearly 14 years after September 11th, first responders and survivors are battling serious health conditions resulting from exposure to toxins at Ground Zero. More than 33,000 9/11 responders, as well as survivors of the attacks, including area residents, workers and children, have an illness or injury caused by the attacks or their aftermath, and over two-thirds of those have more than one illness. So far, 4,385 cancers have been found among 9/11 responders and survivors, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. Many first responders are disabled and can no longer work, and suffer from a host of chronic diseases: asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, cancer and many more, caused by exposure to toxins and carcinogens at Ground Zero. 

Responders came from all over the country to aid in the response to the attacks. And some area survivors, including area residents, workers and children harmed by the disaster, have since moved and are currently receiving care in cities and states across the country. Participants enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program for treatment currently reside in all 50 states and in 429 of the 435 Congressional Districts in the country.

Dozens of 9/11 First Responders and Survivors participated in today’s press conference. Here are many of their stories:

Daniel Arrigo, Responder, Construction Worker
On September 15, Arrigo was trapped in an elevator and lost consciousness due to benzene poisoning. He continued to work nearly four months longer at Ground Zero until doctors told him he had to leave the site. Today he suffers from GERD, Obstructive Airway Disease, upper respiratory disease, spinal problems, diabetes, osteoporosis, pathological fracture and obstructive sleep apnea. In 2003, he had two strokes, and he has been forced to go to the emergency room more than 25 times.

Ronald Barber, Responder, FDNY (retired)
On September 11, Barber responded to Ground Zero and spent two days straight searching for bodies. Most of his battalion was killed in Tower 2. Today he suffers from asthma, cervical disk herniation, reflux, chronic bronchitis, sinusitis and sleep apnea. He is permanently disabled.

Lillian Bermudez, Survivor, Lower Manhattan Resident and Parent
Bermudez’s son Mitch was 12 years old on 9/11. Although he had no prior respiratory problems, two weeks after the attacks, he spent three days in the ICU at Bellevue. Doctors told Lillian that he could have died. He was diagnosed with severe asthma. Bermudez herself also suffers from WTC asthma and breathlessness on exertion.

Stephan Bruno, Responder, NYPD Detective, Sergeant (Retired)
On the day of the attacks, Bruno was stationed at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. He and fellow officers commandeered a ferry, loaded it with doctors and nurses and saw the first building fall as they crossed the water. In the next three months he performed rescue and recovery at Ground Zero, the Staten Island Landfill, and the morgue. Bruno has been diagnosed with cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, asthma, COPD, GERD and anemia. He is unable to run and play with his children, and loses his breath quickly when climbing a flight of stairs. He has difficulty performing even the simplest tasks.

Barbara Burnette, Responder, NYPD Detective (Retired)
“My career came to an end because of illnesses I developed from the time I served at the World Trade Center site. I have been diagnosed with interstitial lung disease, more specifically hypersensitivity pneumonitis with fibrosis in my lungs. I have failed the pulmonary function tests that doctors have given me. The inflammation in my lungs interferes with my breathing and destroys the tissues that get oxygen to my blood. My lungs are permanently scarred. I cannot move around my home without wheezing or gasping for breath. I take large doses of steroids that add to my weight. I start each morning connecting to a nebulizer and inhaling multiple doses of medications. I am told I will eventually need a lung transplant.” Detective Burnette testified before Congress in June before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  

Michael Chilton, Responder, Verizon Engineer (Retired)
Chilton was an engineer for Verizon who worked to bring telephone lines into Manhattan to support NYFD and Red Cross operations. He worked in the area for twelve hours a day for many months. Chilton was diagnosed with tonsil cancer. He can't swallow properly and chokes while eating. He has jaw pain and neck spasms throughout each day.

Godfrey Christian, Responder, ConEdison Employee (Retired)
Godfrey suffers with aerodigestive problems, including Asthma, COPD, Gastroesophageal Reflux, Chronic Sinusitis and Chronic Rhinitis.  His pulmonary function is severely reduced, and he is disabled from employment for life.

John Danielson, Responder, utilities worker (Retired)
Danielson suffers from chronic rhinitis, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, asthma and sinusitis. On the morning of September 11, 2001 he was ordered into the Consolidated Edison site at Neptune Yard in Brooklyn. From 9/11/01 to 9/13/01, he worked in the Neptune Yard, cleaning World Trade Center debris off of the ConEd equipment and vehicles as they came back from the World Trade Center Disaster site. His first official day working at Ground Zero was 9/14/01, where he worked installing temporary power to transformers for lighting. He later worked installing electricity at various locations over Manhattan.

Claudio Fernandez, Responder, Lieutenant, NYPD, NYC Highway Patrol (Now a Security Guard)
Fernandez was part of  one of the greatest rescue and evacuation efforts in the history of the NYPD. Pairing motorcycles with buses, he helped remove close to 20,000 people out of the Lower Manhattan area in a 14 hour period following the attacks. Today he suffers from respiratory illnesses, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, sleep apnea, chronic rhino-sinusitis, and other conditions. He has undergone tonsillitis surgery and septoplasty surgery.

Susan Herr, Survivor, Morgan Stanley Programmer (Retired)
Susan, a Long Island commuter, worked as a computer programmer on the 68th floor of the south tower.  She decided to evacuate not long after the first plane hit even though building management had announced that it was safe for workers who had been leaving to return to their desks.  The elevator got her as far down as the 43rd floor, where she entered the stairwell.  Herr was descending to the lobby when United Airlines Flight # 175 slammed into the building. Today she suffers from WTC Cough, Asthma, Cancer, PTSD, and some depression. She has problems sleeping, a chronic cough, difficulty walking and breathing, and can no longer live alone.

David Howley, Responder, NYPD ( retired)
Howley has been diagnosed with reoccurring squamous cell head and neck cancer, diminished lung capacity, sinusitis, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. David recently testified in front of Congress at the House Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing on the Reauthorization of the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

Mariama James, Survivor, Lower Manhattan resident and parent
James and her three children developed upper and lower respiratory problems and GERD from World Trade Center fumes and dust. “Every surface of our apartment was covered in dust.” All of her children were prescribed daily treatments including Zyrtec, Allegra, Sinulair, Asmonex, Albuterol, Rhinocort, Q-Var and Advair for allergy, sinusitis and asthma related symptoms. Additionally, all three have been prescribed Prevacid for GERD. “We keep a rescue inhaler, a nebulizer and other meds on hand, in case one of my kids hits the red level of their asthma action plans.”

Thomas McHale, Responder, Port Authority Police Detective (Retired)
McHale currently diagnosed with chronic rhinitis, sinusitis, asthma Barrett’s esophagus and GERD. He is unable to laugh without coughing, is disabled due to pulmonary and heart problems, and his daily medication regimen for his severe Barrett’s esophagus negatively impacts his life.

Robert Murphy, Responder, FDNY, Army National Guard (Retired)
Murphy worked the night shift on September 10, and saw the first plane hit just as he was ending his shift. He responded immediately to the World Trade Center and saw the second plane hit. He worked at ground zero for two days, and then was activated by his Army National Guard Unit. He then served on active duty for 17 straight days, during which he worked on the pile. He was eventually flagged by the medical division and never returned to duty. Since that time he has been hospitalized repeatedly. Murphy continues to suffer from Obstructive Airway Disease, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, and sleep apnea.

Sean O’Toole, Responder, NYPD
O’Toole was on duty in City Hall Park at 8:45 a.m. and witnessed the first plane strike Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. He immediately responded to the scene, His exposure to smoke and debris was constant and continuous, and he was at Ground Zero from September 11, 2001 to May 30, 2002. Sean suffers from asthma and tonsil cancer with ongoing complications. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation. A feeding tube was installed for eight months, during which he could not hug family and friends. There are scars on his face, back and chest as a result of a negative reaction to chemotherapy. He’s lost the ability to taste, can't produce saliva and it hurts him to eat and speak.  His thyroid function was destroyed and must take hormone pills for the rest of his life.

Rafael Orozco, Responder, NYPD Detective (Retired)
Orozco was an early responder who initially worked in rescue and recovery. He spent the next few months safeguarding the area around the pile and transporting workers back and forth through the area. Today Orozco suffers from chronic rhinitis, GERD, and is unable to breathe normally. He credits treatment in World Trade Center Health Program with saving his life.

Carol Paukner, Responder, NYPD (Retired)
Paukner was stationed near the World Trade Center and responded to the site within minutes of the first plane hitting. She helped evacuate people from the scene, and was in Tower Two when it collapsed. Today she suffers with cancer, COPD, GERD, sinusitis, and daily pain.

Ray Pfeifer, Responder, FDNY (Retired)
Pfeifer toiled for eight months at Ground Zero. Today he has stage 4 renal cancer, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, World Trade Center cough and recently suffered a heart attack. “9/11 is with me every day. I lost my close friends from my firehouse, Engine 40 Ladder 35. I know over 70 that were murdered.”

Nicholas Poliseno, Responder, ConEd Employee during 9/11, now mayor of Spotswood, NJ
All of lower Manhattan lost power when WTC7 collapsed. Poliseno worked to restore power, and spent the next year working at or near Ground Zero. He was diagnosed with Multi-Organ Sarcoidosis, Small Fiber Neuropathy, Myelopathy, COPD (Both Restrictive & Obstructive), Severe Bronchial Asthma, GERD, Chronic Rhinitis, Sleep Apnea, and severe PTSD. He is permanently disabled, relies on 22 medications daily, and has been hospitalized every 14 days for IVIG for past 4 years. He will continue needing these treatments for duration of his life. He has suffered severe financial hardship.

Andrew Quin, Responder, NYPD Detective (Retired)
Andrew has been diagnosed with depression, asthma, and rhinitis. “The breathing and mental health difficulties make it hard each day.”

Joseph Ramondino, Responder, NYPD Detective (Retired)
Joseph has been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, basal cell carcinoma (facial), sinusitis. He has endured multiple surgeries and treatments related to his cancers, and he has permanent facial scars.

Miguel Reyes, Responder, CUNY Public Safety Officer, (Disabled)
Reyes was exposed to toxins at Ground Zero while serving as a CUNY Public Safety Officer. He says:“The asthma causes shortness of breath three to four times a day, and at times I’m not able to sleep at night. I wake up gasping for air. I also have a wheeze and occasional dry cough. I’m just able to climb 1 flight of stairs and two blocks before feeling shortness of breath, and I develop 5 to 6 episodes of bronchitis in the winter time.”

Thomas Riley, Responder, FDNY Deputy Chief (Retired)
Thomas has been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He is unable to work.

Edwin Rivera, Responder, NYPD (Retired) 
Rivera arrived early in the morning on September 12, and worked on the pile for several days. He continued working at or near Ground Zero for his remaining four years with the NYPD. Five years after September 11, he was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer. He lost 80 pounds, after a heavy cocktail of chemo and radiation. Rivera continues to suffer with severe neck spasms, obstructive airway disease, and PTSD.

Ricardo Romero, Responder Security Guard
Romero is currently diagnosed with sleep apnea, rhinitis, sinusitis, GERD, PTSD, depression, and asthma. Ricardo’s illnesses greatly affect him psychologically.

Carol Sprung, Survivor, Resident
Sprung witnessed people jumping from the North Tower. She saw South Tower go down, then the North Tower. She walked up 13 floors to her apartment, which was engulfed by the burning smoke/fumes. “We breathed these fumes every day in the warm weather that year. My brother-in-law, who we lived with, died of brain cancer in 2010.” Carol has been diagnosed with Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease, Sjogres Syndrome, Raynauds Syndrome, Fibromyalgia now known as SEID, Collagen Vascular Disease, Degenerative Disc Disease, Chronic Asthma, PTSD, Anxiety and Depression and now Small Fiber Peripheral Neuropathy caused by the Sjogren’s Syndrome and/or the inhalation of metals.

Robert Thomson, Responder NYPD (Retired)
Thompson has been diagnosed with AML Leukemia. He has had a bone marrow transplant, and he suffers from severe neuropathy and other side effects from chemo and radiation treatments. He relies on 12 different doctors for his care.

Patricia Workman, Survivors, Retired Travel Agent
Workman suffers from Multiple Myeloma, skin cancer, GERD, rhinitis, OSA. She has also suffered with pneumonia, shingles, fractures, falling, neuropathy and can’t walk. She experiences “pain everyday all over.”

On January 2, 2011, President Obama Signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (H.R. 847) into law. Maloney, Nadler, King and many others spent nearly a decade fighting to pass this important law, which has provided medical monitoring, treatment, and compensation to those sick and injured from the September 11th attacks.

The Zadroga Act’s two critical programs providing medical treatment and compensation for 9/11 heroes – the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund – are set to shut down and stop providing medical care and compensation this Congress.

Maloney, Nadler & King have introduced the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act, which is cosponsored by 112 other House members. The bill would:

  • Continue the World Trade Center Health Program
  • Continue to Provide Monitoring and Treatment for Communities Throughout the Nation
  • Continue the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF)
  • Make the programs permanent
  • Continue New York City’s Cost Share
  • Continue to Research New Conditions