Today marks the 19th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in NYC. Since that day, the city has continued to face the aftermath as first responders are still in need of medical care. Comedian Jon Stewart is fighting for them.
The Victim Compensation Fund was established in 2001 following the attacks on 9/11. The fund was set up to give health benefits and financial care to first responders and their families as many whom survived the tragedy must continue living with impaired health. Some sustained injuries on site while others only now are becoming ill from long lasting effects of the debris and smoke inhalation. Many first responders from that day have gone on to receive cancer diagnosis' linked to the site.
Treatment for these first responders comes at an incredible financial cost to these heroes and their families.
Funding for the compensation program was suspended in 2004 but then reinstated in 2010. In 2015 when the bill was at risk for expiring, Jon Stewart stood up to prevent the fund from disappearing.
In 2019, a hearing was held to discuss the bill. It was then that Stewart gave an emotional nine-minute speech calling for congress to protect the lives of the first responders.
"There is not a person here, there is not an empty chair on that stage that didn't tweet out "never forget the heroes of 9/11", "never forget their bravery", "never forget what did...what they gave for this country." Well, here they are."
Behind him, sat numerous first responders who are now victims to health issues of their own due to the tragedy. Congress however, was not in full attendance.
"What an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to. Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders, and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one. Shameful."
Stewart tearfully pleaded:
"They responded in five seconds. They did their jobs. With courage. Grace. Tenacity. Humility. Eighteen years later...do yours."
After the unanimous vote, the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee. This new bill ensures health benefits to first responders for 70 more years. That should be long enough to see health care for the rest of their lives. If not, Stewart says he'll be back to fight again. The financial relief from reduced medical costs is huge for these families. Stewart reasoned:
"Certainly, 9/11 first responders shouldn't have to decide whether to live or to have a place to live."
You can watch his full speech here:
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