A large group of elected officials, advocates and union leaders gathered at the World Trade Center site late this afternoon to celebrate passage of the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act.
After 22 hearings, dozens of press conferences and marathon negotiating sessions, a compromise was finally reached yesterday to pass the bill, that only days ago appeared dead. Once signed into law, the legislation would reopen the September 11 victim’s compensation fund to provide compensation to workers and residents who suffered health complications following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
“We’re all here today to celebrate our Christmas miracle,” said the bill’s lead Senate sponsor, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D – NY). Gillibrand hailed the passage by unanimous consent in the Senate as a true demonstration of bipartisan leadership. New York’s junior senator credited the passage to grassroots efforts by advocates and labor leaders.
Braving freezing cold temperatures and falling snow flakes dozens of supporters gathered just a few yards from where the Trade Center once stood for the hour-long ceremony of their victory in the fight to pass a bill – one that they said was more than nine years in the making.
“Today is a victory lap,” proclaimed Senator Charles E. Schumer (D – NY), who closed the deal to pass the bill yesterday afternoon. “But unlike a victory lap when you run a race, this one matters – this victory lap saves lives. These people are heroes – and we know that and America has had a grand tradition – when you risk your life for this country in a time of war and you get hurt America is there for you. Yesterday we affirmed that tradition – the dream of America is alive and well.”
The senators and congress members gathered said that above anyone else it was one man – John Feal, a construction supervisor, who lost part of his foot working at the World Trade Center site and continues to suffer medical issues as a result of his work at Ground Zero who was responsible for getting the bill through Congress. Feal made dozens of trips to the Capitol and did not hesitate to storm the offices of lawmakers and demand to be heard, despite often finding himself escorted out by the police.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do without John in my office ten times a day,” said Rep. Anthony D. Weiner (D – Queens/Brooklyn).
“I don’t have that gene that cares whether someone wants to see me,” Feal told foamcage.com. “It was the resolve of the many men and women who suffered and those aren’t as lucky as I am to be alive today. While everyone had this bill presumed dead, I wasn’t going to give up, no matter what it took.”
Feal is already planning his next trip to Washington, D.C., but this one will come with an invitation – being there to witness President Barack Obama sign the bill into law.
Sources that bill signing could come as early as January 3.
foamcage.com will continue to bring you the latest developments on the efforts to ensure that the heroes of September 11 are not forgotten.
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Contact Michael A. Harris at [email protected]