“Never forget.” “Always remember.” These are the undying words that memorialize our pledge to honor the ultimate sacrifice of 72 law enforcement officers who were fatally taken from us on September 11, 2001. This year marks the 11th commemoration of the 9/11 attacks on our homeland. While we don’t expect much news media and Hollywood interest, that won’t impact or diminish our commitment to honoring the memory of our fallen heroes. Fortunately, the passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 codified our country’s commitment to support our fallen and surviving heroes.
On January 2, 2011, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 was passed into law. This critically important legislation established the means to provide continued screening and treatment for 9/11 first responders. Unfortunately, it did not immediately provide for medical coverage and compensation for first responders who were stricken, or will be stricken, by cancers associated with prolonged exposure to 9/11 toxins at Ground “Hero.”
Thanks to the sustained advocacy of law enforcement organizations and a select few elected officials, the wellness of our heroes will not get fatally stuck to the unforgiving red tape of a bureaucracy. On February 17, 2012, the Science/Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) announced its recommendation that cancer case coverage be included under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The committee was tasked with evaluating medical illnesses that may have a direct nexus to our heroes’ exposure to the toxins at Ground “Hero” on September 11, 2001. While we would have preferred immediate government coverage for first responders stricken with toxin-exposure related cancer, we’re encouraged by the STAC’s findings: long overdue treatment and benefits for our heroes who fell victim to the hazardous toxins of 9/11.
Following up on the STAC’s findings, on June 8, 2012, Dr. John Howard, Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the administrator of the World Trade Center Health Program (http://www.wtcexams.org/), announced his position that the STAC’s findings be adopted. According to a June 8 press release issued by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s office, Dr. Howard stated that “the entire set of recommendations issued by the Science/Technical Advisory Committee to provide coverage for certain types of cancer resulting from exposure to toxins released at Ground Zero” should be accepted.
Building on this positive momentum, NIOSH announced its recommendation on September 9 that 50 forms of cancer coverage be included under the James Zadroga Act. With sustained leadership and advocacy, this policy recommendation will translate into real medical support for our heroes. Unfortunately, our government won’t be able to apply retroactive medical coverage for our heroes who have succumbed to cancer since 9/11. We will nonetheless pull together to provide love and support for our fallen heroes’ families and honor their ultimate sacrifice on September 11.
In addition to honoring the sacrifice of our fallen heroes, it is important to recognize those who fought, and continue to fight, for our heroes. As the president of F.L.E.O.A., it was my pleasure to work with the New York City law enforcement coalition (NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Lieutenants Endowment Association, Captains Endowment Association and Detectives Endowment Association) during several meetings on Capitol Hill. Chris Granberg, one of the premiere law enforcement advocates in D.C., provided great leadership as the coalition’s point-man. Additionally, the National Association of Police Organizations and the National Troopers Coalition provided formidable support for the Zadroga legislation, while the Fraternal Order of Police supplied tactical air coverage.
On the Congressional front, two Representatives in particular set aside all partisan differences and were unrelenting in their support for the Zadroga legislation: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Congressman Peter King. While several elected officials opted to minimize the 9/11 aftermath as a New York problem, these two elected officials fought valiantly for all our heroes and their families. We are cautiously optimistic that Representative Maloney and King’s noble actions will create a contagion of patriotism in Congress. As the law enforcement coalition stated during its meetings on the Hill, each star on our American flag is of equal importance. An attack on one star means an attack on all stars.
Among the 72 fallen enforcement heroes who gave their lives in support of all the stars on our flag, three federal officers made the ultimate sacrifice: Special Agent Leonard W. Hatton (FBI), Master Special Officer Craig Miller (USSS) and Refuge Supervisory Officer Richard Jerry Guadagno (USFWS). Their honor and sacrifice will always be remembered and never forgotten. May these brave officers, and all law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice on September 11, 2001, rest in eternal honor and comforting peace.