Local electeds and 9/11 first responders lobby for extension of Zadroga Act

Anchored in personal testimony and aimed at protecting future first responders, local elected officials and members of the NYPD—including 9/11 first responders and their families—gathered at Bay Ridge’s BRAVO headquarters to rally support for a permanent extension to the Zadroga Act , a bill passed in 2011 meant to provide treatment for those suffering with 9/11-related health issues.

The act, established in honor of James  Zadroga, an NYPD officer who died of respiratory complications following his rescue and recovery work at Ground Zero, established the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program—a multi-pronged health system that works to provide services for rescue and recovery workers, survivors (those who lived, worked or went to school in lower Manhattan on 9/11) and responders at the Pentagon and the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, crash site.

However, while the act outlines compensation and program procedures through fiscal year 2015, it ends there.

“We must permanently reauthorize the Zadroga Act, for it was during the worst terrorist attack on American soil in the history of our democracy that our first responders were there and stood strong in the face of danger,” said State Senator Martin Golden, a former NYPD officer. “And now, 14 years later, their health continues to deteriorate because they were not afraid to put their own lives on the line for others. We must take care of these American heroes always.”

Several first responders spoke about their experiences after the attacks and specifically spoke about how the WTC Health Program came to their aid.

Retired Detective John Muller told the crowd about the months he spent sifting through the remains and debris encompassing the World Trade Center after 9/11. Through the WTC Health Program he was able to receive regular monitoring,  which led to his eventual lung cancer diagnosis earlier this year. Muller is currently undergoing chemotherapy funded by the WTC Health Program.

Joseph Zadroga, James’ father, was also in attendance.

“Upon his grave, I made a promise that we will tell his story of what happened,” Zadroga said of his son. “Prior to his passing, he was losing his house, his medical bills were over $1,000, sometimes $2,000 a week. They ate sauce and spaghetti for two weeks so that their baby could have formula.

“The reason I tell you this,” he continued, “is because that’s what it’s going to revert to if this bill is not extended. First responders will be eating buttered rolls and spaghetti so that their family and babies can have formula, so that they don’t lose their homes and their cars. That’s why [this is] important. That’s why, for the past 10 years, I’ve been coming forward telling this story; because I don’t want to see other first responders going through what my son and his family went through.”

“We came together today to focus on the heroes who selflessly rushed toward death and destruction in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks,” said Congressmember Dan Donovan. “Many will pay for their heroism for the rest of their lives; some have already paid with their lives. Their stories speak louder than any of us standing behind a podium. It is cancer victims like retired Detective John Muller and widows like Jacqui Lopez who are the most forceful voices in support of a permanent Zadroga Act; I thank them for their time, their words, and – most of all – their sacrifice.”

Also at the press conference were Long Island Congressmember Peter King, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch.

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