How the Public is Able to Bring About Action: “The Zadroga Act.”
The tragedy of 9/11 happened a little more than 14 years ago. Today, many individuals still hold the painful memories of that day as if it happened last week. Countless individuals carry the memory of a loved one who was lost or care for those who were injured when the buildings collapsed. However, there is also a group of individuals who are affected by 9/11 in a life threatening manner every day. These individuals are the first responders who risked their lives to try and save others, resulting in long term medical complications and expenses.
A few years after 9/11, the the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was provided to help the first responders and their families pay for the care they needed to treat the various injuries and illnesses that were caused from their efforts to help. However, this year, the Zadroga Act expired, and no one was talking about it. Many of the first responders were paying out of pocket for expensive medical procedures and treatments, and therefore many began to get worse. Just recently, Congress was able to extend this bill as a part of a 1.1 trillion dollar spending package, also known as an omnibus bill. Passing this extension should seem like an obvious solution that should not have taken a lot of lobbying or hard work. After all, providing care for 9/11 first responders seems to be an issue both sides of our government can rally behind. However, this was not the case.
Advocates for the extension of the Zadroga Act were lobbying tirelessly, trying to get members of congress to listen and act fast, as this was a matter of life and death for them. However, this issue was not being covered extensively by the media, and their was not a large push for action. That is, until Jonathan Stewart decided to return to his show and shed light on this issue. In one of his episodes on “The Daily Show” years ago, Jon Stewart was advocating for the bill and hosted some of the first responders to talk about it. After the act expired and no action was being taken, Mr. Stewart returned to his show with a national audience, and therefore gave the act the exposure it needed for representatives to address it.
Jon Stewart went around the capital, trying to speak with different representatives, exposing those who gave false or empty promises, or those who would not speak to this issue. After the show aired, the Zadroga Act became talked about, people were posting about it all over social media, and with its newfound popularity, pressure came for congress to act on it. This time, since the act was being talked about and was brought to a very public national stage, members of congress were forced to follow through on their promises to renew the program. They could not let it get lost in the process of revising bills until it disappeared and was forgotten.
This recent extension of the Act extends the benefits for first responders for 75 years, a drastic improvement of the previous 5 year bill. This was a bill that representatives were promising would be extended, but no action was being taken. Representatives from both parties when confronted with one of the responders would thank them for their heroics take a few photos, but that was the extent of their action. Once the Zadroga Act began being talked about, with the help of Jon Stewart and his national audience, representatives words turned to actions. Personally, I had not even heard the bill had expired until I saw it on the Daily Show. This may have been the case for many other Americans. The media was able to bring the information and issue to light, which sparked citizens across the nation to put pressure on their representatives for action. In many cases, people feel that public opinion and pressure may go unheard, and many times they are correct. However, in this case, thanks to the tireless lobbyists of the Zadroga Act, to Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, the media as well as social media, and the consituents who pressured their representatives, action was taken and first responders who sacrificed their health for others can get the medical help they need and deserve.