Finally a good news story…

James Zadroga

Yesterday, while still on vacation in Hawaii, President Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act into law, laying the groundwork for a $4.3 billion fund to cover the healthcare costs of first responders suffering from medical complications arising from their service at Ground Zero.

The act will come too late to help former NYPD officer James Zadroga, who died in January 2006, but 100s of his fellow officers, firefighters, steelworkers and volunteers will benefit enormously. In the words of Mike Paladino, President of the New York City Detectives Endowment Association:

“The USA has done the right thing.”

It is shocking to note that New Yorkers had to wait nine years for this burden for so many heroes of 9/11 to be lifted. It is even more shocking to note that if had not been for public outrage at the political shenanigans that accompanied the dying days of the last Congress this act would still be languishing at the bottom of politicians’ ‘to do’ list.

So, we would like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to all of you who raised your voices on this issue and to those who took our online action. You can be very proud of a good day’s work.

It is not yet clear how exactly the act will be implemented but you can rest assured that going forward Amnesty International USA will be keeping a watchful eye on Washington to make sure that all those first responders and residents of lower Manhattan who need medical help in the months and years ahead receive it.

Senate to Vote on 9/11 Health and Compensation Act

The 9/11 Heath & Compensation Act would ensure medical treatment and compensation for 9/11 responders and other survivors.

In the morning of September 11 James Zadroga, an NYPD detective was driving home after an arraignment in the city.  He was almost there when he turned on the radio, he grabbed a bag and rushed back to Manhattan, leaving his crying wife Rhonda who was seven months pregnant.

In the city he was assigned to a traffic post, but made his way to the World Trade Center, one among ten thousand who combed the wreckage of the North and South Towers for three weeks after the attacks.

So much is clear, so much is unclear.  Why an otherwise healthy, fit, and strong NYPD detective, 216 pounds, six feet tall, who had never smoked, and never suffered from asthma, was forced to go sick in 2002, and why he died in 2006 – aged 34.  His last year was spent tethered to an oxygen bottle, gasping for each breath.

For many the debris that swirled in the air in the wake of the twin towers has never settled.  3,000 people died and the list is still growing.  We look to science and medicine for answers, we find doubt, we could have looked to law for justice, but we found fear. There are many open questions that may never be answered about 911 and its aftermath, but what we owe James Zadroga and his 4 year old daughter is not one of them.  We should weigh a doubt upon a certainty and support the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The act reopens the Victims’ Compensation Fund, ensures medical treatment and monitoring for first responders, and offers liability protections for New York City.

The bill passed the House last month and is fast tracked for action as soon as the Senate returns in November.  Please ask your Senator to support the James Zadroga 911 Health and Compensation Act.