Twenty years ago this week, the United States suffered the deadliest terrorist attack in American history, killing almost 3,000 people in a single day and wounding thousands more.
The police, firefighters, and EMTs who rushed to the World Trade Center were my fellow New Yorkers. The families who fled their homes to escape the collapsing towers were my constituents. And like thousands of Americans, those we lost that Tuesday morning were our friends, colleagues, and loved ones. It is hard to fathom how twenty years could have passed since the attack when so many of us live with 9/11 every single day.
One of my clearest memories from that day, and the days following, was the strange odor that hung over the city and the cloud of toxic dust and debris that seemed to sit over Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Environmental Protection Agency insisted, contrary to ample evidence, that this air filled with toxic dust was “safe to breathe.” That was a lie that would have tragic consequences for citizens of New York. In the years since 9/11, many thousands of people have become sick, causing some people to die. Today, more than 110,000 responders, residents, students, and office workers are sick with 9/11-related illnesses. Every year that number grows. New diseases continue to emerge, and there is still so much to learn, particularly about the impact of exposure on the thousands of children and students caught in the toxic debris that day. That’s why I’ve been working to expose that lie and help the victims receive the help they need and deserve.
It was for those brave responders and survivors that Congress came together in 2010 to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which established a national health program to care for those made sick by exposure to toxins in the days, weeks, and months after the 9/11 attack and re-opened the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) to provide support for sick responders and survivors. I have since lead the reauthorization of these important programs until 2090. Today, responders and survivors in all 50 states receive care and support through these programs.
But as new cancers continue to emerge and we learn more about the harmful effects of the toxic dust these responders were exposed to, it has become clear that the funding levels provided to the World Trade Center Health Program cannot keep up with the increased cost of caring for sick responders and survivors. In the coming weeks, Congress will consider a reconciliation bill full of important spending priorities. I, along with my colleague Rep. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — EU calls out Russian hacking efforts aimed at member states House lawmakers ask Cyber Ninjas CEO to testify on Arizona audit House Oversight demands answers on CBP's treatment of Haitian migrants MORE (D-N.Y.), believe it’s imperative that we use this reconciliation bill opportunity to raise the spending caps for the World Trade Center Health Program. This issue isn’t going away so Congress should get ahead of it and act now.
I am a legislator. I did not run into the towers that day or remove toxic debris from the pile for months or return to an office or school covered in dust that was never properly cleaned. Instead, I have worked for twenty years to force Congress and the federal government to understand its moral obligation to care for those who did and are sick and dying because of it. As we mark the 20th anniversary, I will not give up that fight. That obligation only grows. And now it is time for us once again to do our part — to legislate and ensure that everyone made sick from exposure on 9/11 never has to question whether the federal government supports them.
Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBiden to raise refugee cap to 125,000 in October Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan Angelina Jolie spotted in Capitol meeting with senators MORE represents the 10th District of New York.