Senator Gillibrand is right. We have not just a patriotic responsibility but a moral obligation to ensure that the Americans who sacrificed so much for the good of our country in the wake of September 11, 2001, are treated with the respect and care they deserve.
Since the tragedy 14 years ago, families still mourn and our country still grieves. And while the debris has long been cleared and new towers now stand at the World Trade Center site, many of the thousands of brave first responders who sacrificed their safety for the good of our country are still battling — every day — with serious health issues.
These courageous men and women woke up on September 11, 2001, not knowing how the events of the day would unfold, but chose anyway to put themselves in harm’s way for the protection and service of others. And they did the same thing on September 12, 2001, and each and every day after.
Yet now, they and their families are burdened with the physical, emotional and financial costs of their service. As Sen. Gillibrand highlighted, more than 33,000 first responders and survivors still struggle with injuries and illnesses as a result of the 9/11 attacks.
4,800 first responders and 9/11 survivors are receiving treatment at the World Trade Center Health Program headquartered at Rutgers in my state. Across the country, thousands more responders and survivors are benefiting from the care and compensation they deserve as part of programs supported by the James Zadroga Act.
However, this Act is set to expire tomorrow. We cannot allow that to happen.
We owe these courageous Americans not just our gratitude and respect, but our action.
It is incumbent upon this Congress to follow the lead of Senator Gillibrand and pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Re-Authorization Act. I am proud to stand with Sen. Gillibrand, our colleagues in the Senate and in the House, advocates and first responders who are urgently calling for the passage of this necessary legislation.
Our courageous first responders stepped up when our country needed them the most — it’s our turn to step up for them.