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Rep. Clarke Speaks on House Floor About 9-11 Health Concerns

Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (NY-11) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon regarding the health concerns following 9/11.  Below is the text of her statement as prepared:

“Mr. Speaker, I am joining my colleagues on the floor this afternoon in pursuit of justice for the second generation victims of the wicked attack on our nation in New York City on September 11th and to demand basic healthcare supports and services for those whose physical well-being were adversely and irreparably was impacted by the horrific attack on the World Trade Center.

I cannot fathom why on the advent of the 6th anniversary of this most tragic event in our history the this administration has not seen fit to do right by its most courageous citizenry. This is a problem that not only affects many thousands of people throughout the New York region, but also countless thousands throughout the country who bravely came to New York City and helped my hometown in our time of need.

Immediately following the attack and eminent collapse of the World Trade Center, first responders, constructions workers, and volunteers from across every economic sector and walk of life converged upon what we now know as “Ground Zero” to perform search-and-rescue missions.

From the outset, these heroic individuals went in without a second thought about their own personal well-being—they just wanted to save anyone who might have been buried alive and/or to help recover the bodies of those who had perished.  Heros and Heroines without whose efforts, New York City and indeed our nation never could have recovered as quickly as it did.

Later, many of these same workers went on to the lengthy process of cleaning up the demolished site.  At the time, the EPA declared the air to be safe to breathe—a statement we now know to have been false.

Because of their efforts in helping our country to recover, these women and men ingested vast amounts of toxic dust and harmful chemicals.  The result is a plague of debilitating and deadly diseases, some of which are rarely seen in nature.

Only now, six years later, are many of these diseases and complications showing themselves.  In fact, many of the people who spent time near the site may not show any problems until several years further down the line.  Even the best experts have no clue just how many of the individuals will eventually fall ill of long-term complications from the exposure.

Of course, we cannot change the past, so there is nothing anyone can do about exposure that already took place.  All we can now do is make sure these victims receive the medical treatment they deserve.

Bureaucratic red-tape and legal challenges have left these second generation victims overwhelmed by deteriorating health as well as a lack of meaningful financial support from a grateful nation.  Many are going bankrupt under the weight of escalating healthcare costs and loss of income to their homes and families.

Furthermore, there has been no assistance offered to the many non-responders who worked on the scene and area residents who breathed the tainted air that entered their homes.  These people are also victims of the attacks and require support for health problems that are only now manifesting.

This is why I am compelled to add my wholehearted support behind the Maloney-Nadler-Fossella 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

This comprehensive bill establishes programs to monitor and treat everyone exposed to the dangerous toxins found at Ground Zero.  Whether you are a police officer, firefighter, construction worker, area resident, government employee, or anyone else who spent significant time at the scene, you are entitled to treatment for any disease that doctors find is linked to your work immediately after the attacks.

Some of my colleagues from outside the New York region may wonder why they should support such a bill.  They say it does nothing for their own states or districts, so why bother voting for it?  I feel the reasons could not be clearer.

The diseases being developed by victims of Ground Zero are horrid.  Already, well over 100 deaths have been partially attributed to toxins from the site.  Not long ago, a 34-year-old detective collapsed and died while playing with his young daughter due to complications from exposure.  There are victims requiring double lung transplants because of damage caused from dust and chemicals.  Others develop rare cancers.

These people are heroes to the entire nation.  They went in and helped resuscitate not just a city, but an entire country that had been shocked frozen, traumatized and unsure of how to react.  It should be a matter of national honor to help these victims who risked their very lives to support their fellow citizens and indeed their country.

If we are currently fighting a “War on Terror,” then the attacks on 9/11 were the opening shots!  The victims of that day were the first casualties of a long conflict, and those who responded were the first forces to take up the fight.

America always supports its troops, and we must likewise support those who were harmed when coming to our nation’s aid after the worst attack America has faced in recent history.  In doing so, we reinforce the value of a just civil society.

I wholeheartedly support the Maloney-Nadler-Fossella bill, as a co-sponsor and I look forward to joining my colleagues and the AFL-CIO this weekend at the World Trade Center site as we rally in support of fulfilling victims’ long-term healthcare needs. I thank the gentle lady from New York for her extraordinary leadership with regard to this matter and I look forward to pursuing what is right and what is just on behalf of our fellow New Yorkers, fellow Americans and their families.”