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9/11 Heroes Still Waiting for Their Due

9/11 Heroes Still Waiting for Their Due

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New York Daily News via YellowBrix

March 15, 2010

One 9/11 hero who did not participate in the suit and is still in need of help is Tom, who was a welder with a Long Island construction company. Like thousands of construction workers across the region, Tom answered his country’s call for help at Ground Zero. On the evening of Sept. 11, Tom helped set up a makeshift morgue and triage center at the Trade Center site and helped recover victims of the attacks. For the next 10 months, Tom worked long days at Ground Zero – until he fell 20 feet while welding an elevator shaft near the Pile, breaking two vertebrae in his back, immobilizing him for months afterward.

Today, because of the injuries to his back and the severe respiratory illnesses that he has developed since the attacks, Tom can no longer work construction – and has received only minimal compensation for the livelihood he lost in service to our nation.

The Zadroga Act would reopen the federal Victim Compensation Fund to help Tom and tens of thousands of Americans like him take care of themselves and their families. The original VCF, created by Congress in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, provided the families of those killed on 9/11 with a means of securing economic relief without resorting to costly, time-consuming litigation. By any measure, the program was an overwhelming success, with the vast majority of 9/11 families seeking compensation through the VCF, rather than through lawsuits. We believe that a reopened VCF would be similarly successful.

We have a moral obligation to care for those who respond to an attack on our country, just as we did more than 65 years ago, in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks. As the Daily News has pointed out in its series of editorials on the World Trade Center health crisis, American civilians helped recover the dead and salvage what remained of our Pacific fleet. Many of these civilians were killed, injured or made sick as a consequence of their heroic service to our nation. In passing the War Hazards Compensation Act of 1942, Congress wisely and compassionately extended health care and financial relief to civilian responders in need.

It is well past time for this Congress to do the same for the heroes and survivors of 9/11. It is truly the least our great nation can do.

Maloney represents the East Side of Manhattan and parts of Queens, and Nadler represents parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, in the United States House of Representatives.