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December 21st, 2010
11:33 AM ET

Opinion: We must pay our debt to 9/11 heroes

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/12/21/gillibrand.wtc.responders.bill/t1larg.gillibrand.senate.jpg caption="Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand argues for passage of the 9/11 responders bill, accompanied by first responder Capt. John Gallagher, left." width=300 height=169]

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Kirsten E. Gillibrand was sworn in as U.S. senator for New York in January 2009, filling the seat of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Before her appointment, she served in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing New York's 20th Congressional District.

(CNN) - On September 11, 2001, when thousands of innocent men and women lost their lives, tens of thousands more came to their assistance.

We as a nation saw greater acts of heroism than we could have imagined: First responders from all over New York and all over the country came to ground zero to save lives, provide proper burial for lives that were lost and assist in the enormous effort to clean up and recover from that devastating attack on our nation.

Tragically, in the nine years since the attack, more than 30,000 responders and survivors from across the country have had to be medically treated because of their exposure to ground zero toxins. They are waiting for Congress to pass legislation to ensure that they can continue to get the care they need.

Our 9/11 heroes didn't think twice that day. Bound by duty, a love of our nation and their fellow Americans, they joined hand in hand with heroes from every corner of America to come to our rescue.

Now, it's long past time we came to theirs. Nine years ago, no one could have imagined that our nation would ignore our duty to the 9/11 heroes. Nine years ago, no one could have imagined that our country would leave these heroes behind.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act would finally provide monitoring and treatment for World Trade Center responders and community members who are suffering, and for those who traveled to ground zero from all across America.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Opinion
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Edward Funn

    I am very very upset that the host did not correct the women on the payment of the 9-11 bill. She stated it wasn't paid for, Which if you check it is. A tax on forgien companies selling goods in america. Second to even hint that this might be true of it being pushed through at last min, The Republican's stalled and stalled and have no right to complain about being rushed now.

    December 22, 2010 at 5:17 am |
  2. Judy Jaskowski

    Here's an idea for the funding for medical expenses for the 911 worker- discontinue all respenstatives health care and use the money to fund our real heroes.

    Doesn't seem like the people in Washington care except when it comes to themselves. Have them pay for all of their own expenses, see how much money we could save. No one buys my stamps or lunch.

    Judy

    December 22, 2010 at 1:21 am |
  3. Celia

    It is a very sad day in the United States that we cannot support those on whom our survival often depends. Too bad we can find money to give everyone in the country a tax break, but we cannot seem to find the money to help those who sacrificed their health to help others on a day these United States were attacked. Standing on principle is admirable and passing bills that are necessary and prudently funded is appropriate for our elected officials. However, just because the senator from Oklahoma had a scheduling conflict which caused him to miss the committee debate regarding the 9/11 first responders health bill, does not mean the bill was never discussed. He just missed it (and I hope he did so for more than lunch with a lobbyist). I also must assume he filibusters and/or votes "NO" on all bills that have equal or less necessity and equal or less prudent funding. Otherwise, his vote is only for "party politics" and is not representative of the best for this country. On 9/11 we stood together as citizens of the United States. It's too shameful that we can't "stand together" to support the men and women who "stood up" to help those who could not stand for themselves on 9/11. Perhaps we need to discuss in committee whether we are still the UNITED STATES!

    December 21, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  4. gordon

    Dana Loesch is missinformed the 911 bill is 100% funded, by taking away a tax loophole for forein co.. She is just a GOP talking head. Every time she is on CNN she lies. you cant let Dana Loesch lie to us, Just trying to keep you honest. Please do a better job.

    December 21, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
  5. Mike

    Caring and paying the medical bills of 9/11 emergency workers is simply the right thing to do. Its crazy that it has taken this long to do so. The fire service is made up of the best this country has to offer and they risk everything they have to offer and their families have to offer because thats what the job requires. Its time that we as a nation pay the respect to not only the 9/11 emergency workers but also to all of the emergency workers across America. Seems that we forget the need for having well trained and experienced Firefighter end EMS personel until we need them evidence of this is in the huge cuts across America and the fact Fire departments are being forced to operate with equipment and Apparatus that is decades old. WE OWE THEM BETTER THAN THIS!!

    December 21, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  6. Mary Anne Woodrom

    I am appalled that Congress has not passed the health bill to help the 9/11 first responders! I absolutely support it, and I will not support anyone who votes against this!

    December 21, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  7. James Contrino

    Senator Coburn's attendance record for the hearings on this issue needs to be published and made into an issue. Was he at the hearings? How many? When? If he has so many objections to the way this bill is written, why is it so critical now? Where was he when the bill was being discussed?

    December 21, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
  8. Joe Stalnaker

    Coburn is holding this back. I'm still a little short on his reasoning. My understanding is a fee will be placed on foreign companies accepting US contracts. Is he leveraging politically to stall or backing foriegn companies who seek contracts? Holding up the whole train just to stop the caboose?

    December 21, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
  9. Lance

    The idea that people are standing in the way of helping heroes that have risked their lives so willingly is disturbing to me. It shows how much more politicians care about giving bailouts to protect their own bank accounts and shares while not worrying where the money was coming from. I dont care where the money comes from, find it and make it happen, I'm pretty sure we did not have 700 billion dollars but found it. It will not cost 700 billion dollars to help these men and women, politicians make stupid laws everyday, they cannot turn their back on this while people are dying as time goes by.

    December 21, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
  10. miguel

    I think the republic behavior is the bigest terrorist attack to the Amarican working class, they have made a point of going against anything but the tax breack to the rich that funded their campaign. It is time for american to stan up to this clowns.

    December 21, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
  11. JH Collins

    36,000 first responders in need of assistance above the assistance already provided seemes like a very high number. Perhaps 360 could investigate the legitimance of these claims and report on it's findings. Has congress done such an investigation before seking these funds ? I suggest 360 ask for the congressional records which shows that they did their due dilligence as trustees of the public purse. Was Tom Coburn shown this evidence ? Is he a cold hearted villian here or the only reponcible public servant left standing ?

    December 21, 2010 at 10:33 pm |
  12. David Wight

    First responders may need help, but any bill to do that needs to go through the regular process, and should include stiff penalties for anyone committing FRAUD.
    Do Not Rush (CRAM) this bill through based on CNN pressures, or CNN politics....

    December 21, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
  13. Terri

    These brave men and women deserve the same benefits that our military receive. They are just as brave and give of their lives for the for all of us without thought. What happened on 9/11 was atrocious! But what all the first responders did was more amazing than words can say. It is appauling what Congress has been doing in delaying for 9 years in voting and passing 100% this act while these brave men and women continually suffer day in and day out. For any one of them to hesitate, to even think of questioning/denying "The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act" incomprehensible. This should be passed immediately 100% across the aisle without any further hesitation, without polical agenda's, "Pork", etc. We owe these men and women at least this much! Congress passes "PORK" without hesitation every day but have taken 9 years and still haven't got the job done on this one.If I had my way I would FIRE the lot of them. Instead it is politics as usual! What a tragic example they have set. We have spent billions and billions on Iraq and Afghanastan for what, and -0- on the "The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act" for those here at home who risked and/or gave of their lives trying to save, rescue and recover those tragically involved in the 9/11 tragedy. The next time something like 9/11 happens again, the first responders may think twice before risking their lives knowing their government doesn't stand behind them or support them in their time of need.

    December 21, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  14. Steven in Mesa

    Failure to pass this measure is a disgrace. Rep. Anthony Weiner has said that the cost of this coverage has already been paid for. Even if this is inaccurate, we cannot ignore what these first responders did for New York and our country during that most difficult of times in our history. The 9/11 First Responders should not be held hostage by party politics.

    December 21, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  15. Bob Wolk

    Many of the Republican senators who have spoken out against this bill are the same ones who have used the events of 9/11, and the first responder heroes as a cornerstone of their election / reelection platforms.

    This blatant hypocrisy is what leads to the distrust and negative feelings that the majority of Americans have toward our congressional leaders.

    December 21, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  16. Garrett

    What troubles me most about much of what I heard is that folks seem to be missing the most important part of this issue: We are sick and some of us are dying as we speak... A lot of the 9/11 First Responders don't have the luxury of time on their sides. Why has the GOP chosen this particular bill as the one to suddenly take a stand on?

    It's also ironic that Senator Tom Coburn of all people has announced that he will obstruct the bill and prevent it from being voted on. His own constituents were the recipients of the expert services of N.Y. U.S.A.R. Task Force #1 in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in April of 1995. New York Task Force #1 is made up of N.Y.C. Firefighters and Police Officers; many of whom were killed at the September 11th terrorist attacks and many more of whom are now among the sick and dying. What a heck of a nice way for the Senator to say thank you to N.Y. Task Force #1 !!!

    We need The 9/11 Health Bill to be passed now. We ran toward the terrorist attacks immediately on 9/11/01 ... it's been over nine years and the people who allegedly work for us in Washington D.C. have still not responded to our call for assistance.

    December 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  17. gerald

    Funding an issue? when we just signed a big tax cut? where are the priorities? this has been on the table since July

    December 21, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  18. gerald

    This is not just a New York issue !!

    December 21, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  19. gerald

    How could Dana be so wrong about the funding issue because there is no funding issue!

    December 21, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  20. CyndyP

    What the Republicans have done to hold up this bill is reprehensible! It would have been paid for by closing a loophole in taxing foreign corporations, but due to the money given to the US Chamber of Commerce for the last election, they had a favor to repay. JUST PLAIN EVIL! I hope they pay dearly for putting corporations ahead of taking care of these first responders.

    December 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm |