Hidden among President Trump's budget proposal is a clause that may cut back on the healthcare provided to the 9/11 first responders.
Earlier this month, Irish American firefighter Lieutenant Edward Meehan became the latest member of the FDNY to die from a 9/11-related illness. The 59-year-old New York native spent most of his career on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and was promoted to lieutenant in 1995.
Meehan’s funeral Mass was held at St. Anthony’s Church in Nanuet. He is believed to be the 168th FDNY member to die from a 9/11-related illness. This to go along with another 133 NYPD employees who died after helping with the cleanup—sometimes for months—at Ground Zero.
The calendar suggests that that awful September day gets further and further behind us. And yet, it never really does, does it?
Yes, true, this week marks the 25th anniversary of the first terrorist attempt to topple the Twin Towers, back in 1993, which left six people dead. Also this week, the streaming TV service Hulu began airing a new star-studded mini-series called "The Looming Tower," based on the acclaimed book by Lawrence Wright, which won a Pulitzer Prize and tells the story of “Al Qaeda and the road to 9/11.”
The Looming Tower stars (among others) Jeff Daniels as Irish-American FBI agent John O’Neill, who later became head of security at the World Trade Center. To some, O’Neill, who died in the September 11, 2001, attacks, was the “man who warned America,” or “the man who knew,” to use the titles of a book and documentary about O’Neill.
Following the ’93 attack, O’Neill argued that another terror attack was imminent.
The heroes of that day are still dying.
And so, whatever the calendar says, the wounds of 9/11 remain fresh, raw and terrible.
Which makes it all the more shocking—he same month that saw the deaths not just of Meehan but also FDNY 9/11 veteran Ronald Svec—to read that funding for treatment of first responders is in danger of being cut.
As Ginger Adams Otis noted in a New York Daily News exclusive, “Hidden in the fine print of President Trump’s latest budget proposal is a detail that could directly impact 9/11 first responders.”
According to the News, the Trump budget would shift the World Trade Center Health Program to a different agency.
“Lawmakers and 9/11 advocates say the impact would be dreadful for the more than 83,000 responders and survivors who rely on the WTC Health Program to receive treatments, medications and monitoring for injuries and illnesses caused by toxins at Ground Zero and other 9/11 sites,” Otis wrote.
Republicans like Congressman Peter King joined Democrats such as Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney slamming the move.
“We were shocked and disturbed,” reads a letter signed by Maloney and King.
“This proposal directly contradicts the legislation Congress passed just three years ago … This will unnecessarily put at risk the health of those who have been made ill by 9/11, many of whom are still suffering, and in too many cases still dying, from their injuries 17 years later.”
It’s the same old story. There are politicians who claim they love law enforcement and firefighters. It makes them look tough.
And yet, when it comes to ponying up the cash that is actually required to care for those folks, they want nothing to do with it.
Lest we forget the Zadroga Act. That bill was designed to assist first responders who suffered health problems as a result of the 9/11 attacks.
Don’t forget that House Speaker Paul Ryan, the budgetary brains behind President Trump, as well as Vice President Mike Pence (then a member of the House) actually voted against the Zadroga Act in 2010.
So, you know what? Hold off on the parade for our military, which might cost upwards of $30 million bucks. Let’s just make sure first responders can get the care they need.
Tom Deignan is a contributing writer for the forthcoming book "Nine Irish Lives: The Fighters, Thinkers, and Artists Who Helped Build America"Algonquin). Contact “Sidewalks” at tdeignan.blogspot.com.