The horror of 9/11 echoes ominously on this 13th anniversary of that attack as the nation once again responds to a virulent terrorist threat.
This time the enemy is the Islamic State group that recently beheaded two American journalists.
President Barack Obama sounded a call to arms last night, seeking public support for an American-led international effort to aggressively combat the radical group, also known as ISIS, that has taken territory so brutally in southern Syria and northern Iraq.
But even with the nation’s attention riveted on this new challenge, Americans shouldn’t forget the individuals who responded so selflessly after 9/11.
We should especially remember the 30,000 responders and volunteers who got sick after being exposed to toxins in the tangle of remains and debris at Ground Zero, where acrid fires smoldered for months.
About 16,500 of these heroes have submitted claims to the $2.775-billion September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. According to a report fund administrators released Tuesday, 1,843 awards have been made. Fortunately, the pace has picked up in recent months. The need is urgent for many of the sick and the families of those who’ve died.
But the programs created in 2010 under the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act will expire soon — the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund in October 2016, and the World Trade Center Health Program, which monitors and treats responders, in October 2015.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Jerrold Nadler and others in Congress from New York have started the push to reauthorize the programs for 25 years.
The health of 60,000 responders is being monitored. The need isn’t going away. Neither should the programs established to help those who develop a host of chronic respiratory illnesses and cancers. Many victims can’t work and have exhausted their savings.
We should continue to meet the medical and financial needs of those early casualties of the war with terrorists even as the nation’s focus shifts, as it must, to confronting the latest terrorist challenge.