Lawmakers want first responders included


NEW YORK (AP) – Flanked by ailing first responders and family members, two state lawmakers said Sunday that the museum planned for ground zero should include a memorial to victims of fatal illnesses incurred during the months-long recovery and cleanup of World Trade Center debris.

Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, and Sen. Martin Golden, a Brooklyn Republican, said they would introduce legislation in Albany to ensure that those who became ill from working at the site and died are recognized.

“We want to tell the story of the 9/11 workers who rushed here to help put the city back on its feet, who got sick because they did that, and now unfortunately many of them have died, and more importantly, that number is likely to increase as the years go on,” Gianaris said. “We want to put to rest the question of whether this actually happened.”

The Bush administration and state and local governments have been criticized for being slow to acknowledge that many people developed debilitating illnesses from exposure to toxic materials at the trade center site.

Golden said a full accounting of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the twin towers, which killed nearly 2,800 people, would have to include the effects on the health of first responders and others who worked in the rubble.

“We have to tell the true story of what happened here, and that memorial should tell it, from Day 1 to the present and to the future,” he said.

The legislators said that as part of the museum to be built at ground zero, their proposal would not affect plans for a larger memorial to those who were killed on Sept. 11 or interfere with reconstruction of the site, now in early stages.

The event came a day after the funeral of police officer Cesar Borja, 58, who died of lung disease believed to have resulted from recovery activity at ground zero.

Spokesmen for a group called Unsung Heroes Helping Heroes praised what one called the “bipartisan endeavor” to obtain financial support for ailing post-Sept. 11 workers and ensure that they are memorialized.

“We were all healthy people before. Now we are all sick. We’ve been given a very slow death sentence,” said paramedic Marvin Bethea, who displayed a board showing two daily medications he took beforehand and the 15 he now takes for a range of ailments including asthma, high blood pressure and anxiety.

Also attending was Joseph Zadroga, father of retired Detective James Zadroga, whose January 2006 death was attributed to his work at ground zero by a New Jersey medical examiner.

“I promised him before he passed that I would make sure his death would not be in vain,” Zadroga said. “I asked him if he would do it again, and he said, like all these first responders would, that he would do it again.”