Remember 'Never Forget 9/11'? Demand that Congress care for the responders who answered the call

Remember 'Never Forget 9/11'? Demand that Congress care for the responders who answered the call
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Never forget.

On Sept. 11, 2001, and in the days after the attacks on our great nation, those words were everywhere. Never forget those we lost during the attacks. Never forget the brave men and women who perished during the collapse of the towers performing one of the largest rescue operations ever. Never forget those Americans from every state in this great nation and nearly every walk of life who worked the ruins despite the toxic smoke and dangerous conditions. America swore we would never forget.

Now, nearly 18 years after the attacks, we find ourselves forced to remind our government leaders of the sacrifice made that day — not just by those who lost their lives in the collapse, but by those who continue to suffer and die because they answered our nation’s call for help and developed illnesses as a result of their service. 

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We need every American to call their representatives and senators and demand they permanently and completely fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) to care for those who answered the call on Sept. 11 and show through action that they haven’t forgotten.

The VCF was established to care for those who cared for our nation when we needed them most. But earlier this year, the VCF announced that it did not have sufficient funds to continue serving the victims of the attacks and that compensation would be cut by 50 percent for pending cases and 70 percent for future claims. Worse, in 2020 the VCF will be forced to close its doors and not accept new claims. 

The sad irony is that, as this assistance is being cut, more and more Sept. 11 responders are being diagnosed with cancers, respiratory issues and other related illnesses due to the time it takes for these often-deadly diseases to develop. Now is the time for Congress to act and vote to make the VCF permanent.

Legislation in Congress, the Never Forget the Heroes Act, HR 1327 in the House and S 546 in the Senate, will make the VCF permanent and allow those battling 9/11-related illnesses to get the compensation they deserve for their sacrifices made in service to their nation.

As New York City fire fighters, we have seen firsthand our city and our nation at their most vulnerable and at their strongest. From the darkness of the towers falling, hope emerged on the backs of the fire fighters, police officers, construction workers, FEMA teams and other volunteers who stood up for the America ideal of caring for one another, no matter the cost.

Now we need you to stand up for what is right and fair. We need every American who swore they would never forget to reach out to their U.S. representatives and senators. We need you to once again join together and tell our elected leaders that we owe these responders — that it is our patriotic duty to care for those who answered the call when our nation needed them. Urge your representative to support the VCF and fund it on a permanent basis and, if they already do, thank them. Remind them to Never Forget.

Gerard Fitzgerald is president of the Uniformed Firefighters of New York.

Jake Lemonda is president of the Uniformed Fire Officers of New York.