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Pass the Bill

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 5:26 p.m.

At Monday's presser, Bloomberg welcomed members of Congress, the police commissioner Ray Kelly and fire commissioner Salvatore Cassano, Joseph Zadroga, father of James Zadroga, for whom the bill is named, some first responders, and labor leaders, including Uniformed Firefighters Association head Steve Cassidy and Pat Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association--group as white as his administration, it would appear.

"For years now, all of us have been working very hard to pass a bill through the United States Congress guaranteeing that the first responders and survivors of the attacks of 9/11 receive the health care they need." Bloomberg said. "These attacks were attacks on America by a foreign enemy. They were acts of war, and they led us to war in Afghanistan. Caring for the men and women who rushed to our defense on that dark day, and in the days that followed, is nothing less than a national duty. America is too great a country to shirk this duty. We are too strong. Too proud. Too patriotic. And this is the week that we have to show it."

He heaped praise on Washington insiders Pete King, Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler, saying, "The bill did pass the House earlier this year. Earlier this month, the Senate fell several votes short of the 60 required to end debate and take a vote. At the time, Republicans said that they voted against ending debate because they did not believe that any bill should move until a deal on tax cuts had been completed.

"That deal, as you know, is now done. And the time for excuses is over. Very simply: it's time to end the debate and let the bill be voted on."

Pushed on by many suffering first responders, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have become politicos who have been front and center of the revitalized effort to push this bill through. Since the bill has slowly been gaining more Republican support, there is a feeling that the vote may get passed by Saturday Christmas Day.

Capt. Washington is a 22-year veteran; now at Engine 234 in Brooklyn, he was with Ladder 127 in Queens back in September 2001. He added, "I got there when the towers came down. I was there for several bodies, I was there for a lot of hours. When we first got down there, we were putting out a big fire that took hours to extinguish. After that we searched for survivors."

The member of the Vulcans noted that 343 New York City firefighters died during 9-11, 12 of whom were members of the Vulcans. Many other first responders have died or gotten sick since then. "John McNamara was a member of my company, who died a year ago from breathing in all that stuff, and left a 4-year-old kid. Give the people what they need."

Retired detectives Marquez Claxton was among those who were down at the site during those tragic days.

"I am one of the thousands of plaintiffs who recently agreed to the terms of the settlement with New York City for first responders," Marq Claxton, retired detective and founder of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance. "I did so, not because I thought that the compensation offer was fair or just, but because there are first responders who are on death's doorstep and I didn't want them to die not knowing if their loved ones would receive compensation for their sacrifice. The federal Zadroga bill is even more important in insuring that these terminally ill first responders receive monies for treatment and their families aren't thrown into further despair and ruin by the hypocrisy of the political pseudo-patriots. As was the case immediately following the 9-11 attacks, Blacks and Latinos are excluded from the discussion about first-responder heroics and the subsequent medical ailments. Although you haven't seen the faces or heard the names, there are scores of seriously ill Blacks and Latinos who will be impacted by these compensation packages. For many of us, the physiological damage to first responders is like a ticking time bomb that may have devastating consequences in the future."