OPINION: We pledged ‘Never Forget’

BY CAROLYN B. MALONEY | Last week, we lost an incredible New Yorker — an American hero — N.Y.P.D. Detective Luis Alvarez. I vowed that we would finish his last mission — to take care of the 9/11 community.

On Friday, the House scheduled to finally vote to fully fund and make permanent the Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund to take care of every first responder, construction worker, volunteer and survivor who is now sick, plus the spouses left alone and the children left without parents because of illnesses caused by 9/11.

Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, in her “heroes coat,” with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Jon Stewart, recently calling for restoration of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. Maloney has vowed to keep wearing the firefighter’s coat until the fund is fully restored. (File photo)

In honor of N.Y.P.D. Detective James Zadroga — the first person to die from 9/11 illness — F.D.N.Y. Firefighter Ray Pfeifer and N.Y.P.D. Detective Luis Alvarez, who dedicated their last breaths to fighting for the 9/11 community, and for all the heroes who are still dealing with the effects of 9/11 each and every day, we will get this done and send this bill to the president’s desk.

We have a double moral obligation to these heroic men and women. Not only were they there for us in one of our nation’s darkest hours. But our government told all those who worked on the pile and lived, worked and went to school near Ground Zero that the air was safe to breathe, and the water was safe to drink when it wasn’t. They are sick because of us.

Last month, Congress heard from Anesta St. Rose Henry as she testified in front of the House Committee on the Judiciary, sitting in front of two of her children that she is now raising alone. She lost her husband Candidus Henry less than a month earlier to glioblastoma, a rare brain cancer, connected to his time working on the pile at Ground Zero. She told us and the American people about Candidus, and the hole he left behind — a hole only made larger by the fact that, because her husband died this May instead of two years ago, she and her family will not receive a full award from the Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund because the fund is currently facing a budget shortfall.

The special master of the fund announced in February that because of lack of funding the V.C.F. was forced to start cutting awards by 50 to 70 percent to extend the fund’s life. The Henrys are one of the families devastated by this reduction.

But we will fix that by passing this bill. Not only does the Never Forget the Heroes Act fully fund and make permanent the V.C.F. for the future, but it also directs the special master to revisit all the reduced awards paid out to the 9/11 community because of the budget shortfall and make these families whole.

After 9/11, we vowed to “Never Forget” and with that, we made a commitment to make sure every 9/11 first responder, survivor and their families never have to go without the support they need or deserve. It is the very least we can do as a grateful nation.

Maloney is congressmember, 12th District.