‘These are heroes, we can help’: Schumer and New York pols call for 9/11 fund expansion

Mariama James 1
Mariama James, 9/11 survivor, flanked by NY congressional delegates and first responder advocates .
Photo: Harry Parker

There is a crisis gripping the first responders to the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center. 3 out of 4 firefighters who were in the vicinity of the burning towers are now ill, according to a Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) spokesperson. This wave of illnesses brought members of the New York Congressional delegation out in force Friday morning. 

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn/Queens), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn), and Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Long Island) were joined by civilian and first responder advocates who are calling for the passage of the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act.

The bill would replenish funds passed in 2015 that were supposed to permanently endow the 9/11 victims compensation fund for those who were made ill from the deadly toxins exposed by the collapse of the twin towers. Funding is dwindling due to an increase in the number of claimants to the fund.

“These are heroes, we can help,” thundered Schumer, who lauded the bravery of first responders from nearly 20 years ago, and said funding is dwindling due to an increase in the number of claimants to the fund.

“What we have found [is] that the number of people sick, dying has greatly increased,” Schumer said. 45,000 first responders are said to suffer from lung or gastrointestinal issues 20 years on.

Those sick also include bystanders, residents, and even students from that day in Lower Manhattan. The legislation would also authorize the program to develop a research cohort to study the impact of the toxic exposures and psychological trauma on the more than 35,000 people who were children at the time of the attack and resided or attended school or daycare in the NYC disaster area in the aftermath of the attack.

Mariama James is a mother of three children exposed to the debris from 9/11, one who was born after the event. James and her family lived in Lower Manhattan, and despite her proximity to the collapse, her pleas were ignored. 

“I would drag them around from doctor to doctor because people didn’t believe in 9/11 related health [issues],” James said. “I knew that my children were sick because of 9/11”.

James struggled until her children finally received the care they needed, but she continues to advocate for further study of the 35,000 children that attended school near the attacks. 

The personal nature of this funding battle was highlighted by Maloney, who neared the end of her remarks with a warning to opponents of the bill.

“Anyone on the Republican side or the Democratic side who comes out against [the bill], they’re not welcome to New York to come here and fundraise or anything else,” Maloney said.

Schumer said to reporters that the upcoming Senate reconciliation bill will include this 9/11 compensation fund provision. 

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