Doing Right by 9/11 First Responders

 

As a general rule, I’m really tired of hearing what celebrities think of anything politics-related, and seeing them “testify” on the Hill is basically my least favorite CSPAN circus from Washington D.C. That being said, sometimes it’s nice to have someone present who can actually get the cameras, and those behind them, to pay attention, and today was one of those days. Comedian Jon Stewart testified about 9/11 first responders to an almost empty Congress, and he wasn’t shy about hiding his disgust at the situation:

The scene reminded me of the recent HBO mini-series about the disaster at Chernobyl (a must-watch if you haven’t already taken the plunge).

One of the most jarring aspects of watching the series is just how little the Soviet government cared for its own people, and that saving face was more important than evacuating towns, about warning neighboring countries, etc. Thousands of men were lied to or told half-truths about the radiation dangers they were exposed to while cleaning out the area of debris at the nuclear plant and in the surrounding area.

We are, of course, better than that, and it’s time to start acting like it. The scene today gave me the sinking feeling I experienced watching the Soviet government lie to its men and then leave them hanging out to dry. Despite claims at the time that the area around Ground Zero was safe, it’s hard to believe many people in a position of authority actually believed that to be the case. The air in Lower Manhattan was clearly polluted with building debris that was never meant to be airborne. I imagine most of them would have gone there anyway, and more than a few suspected at the time that the area wasn’t as safe as some claimed it was.

But now we know for sure the risk that these first responders took on, we know what being down there in the first hours and days and weeks did to their long-term health. And now it’s time to prove that we’re better than the Soviet government was after Chernobyl. All of these men, in the Ukraine, and in New York City, did nothing short of the Lord’s work in the wake of disaster. They are owed relief and assistance dealing with the health issues stemming from the work they did on behalf of humanity. They had our backs, and it’s time to have theirs. What a sad state of affairs that we need Jon Stewart to remind us of that.

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There are 10 comments.

  1. Mike H Coolidge

    I have to believe there are big charities for these people. Is that not true? If something is massively important, the government is the last entity you want to rely on.

    • #1
    • June 11, 2019, at 7:46 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. EJHill Podcaster

    Except for one thing: Stewart was talking to a House SUBcommittee. By its very nature it has fewer members than the full committee and that’s why all the empty chairs. Both Republican and Democratic members noted that most of the subcommittee was, in fact, in attendance.

    So while he should be applauded for advocating for these people let’s not perpetuate his mythology.

    • #2
    • June 11, 2019, at 8:32 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. James Lileks Contributor

    Unqualified thanks and kudos to Mr. Stewart for his advocacy and passion. 

    That said, a minor qualification: if he could get a laugh making a faux shocked face at the camera after a cleverly edited video showed a conservative insisting the government-run health care would be a bureaucratic disaster ending in death panels, he wouldn’t hesitate for a second.

    How would he square that circle? “I’m not opposed to the government that performs poorly on small-scale matters of great significance taking over vast, complex enterprises that affect the lives of all, because I am convinced the people who take on that responsibility will be very good at it.”

     

    • #3
    • June 11, 2019, at 10:27 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  4. Jon1979 Lincoln

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Except for one thing: Stewart was talking to a House SUBcommittee. By its very nature it has fewer members than the full committee and that’s why all the empty chairs. Both Republican and Democratic members noted that most of the subcommittee was, in fact, in attendance.

    So while he should be applauded for advocating for these people let’s not perpetuate his mythology.

    Had this been a Senate subcommittee, my guess is the story about Stewart would have legs to last almost all the way to the Fourth of July. But since it was a subcommittee of the House, where all the top positions are held by Democrats at this time, there will be a brief publicity burst for Stewart, followed by the realization that the bad light shown here is going to be bi-partisan, at best, where going after the people running the House means going after people like Pelosi, Hoyer, Steve Cohen, etc. So this thing is out of the news cycle by no later than Friday.

    • #4
    • June 12, 2019, at 5:18 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. ChrisShearer Coolidge

    So what about the fire and police health care and retirement benefits is not covering the health effects of 9/11?

    • #5
    • June 12, 2019, at 5:58 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Vance Richards Member

    ChrisShearer (View Comment):

    So what about the fire and police health care and retirement benefits is not covering the health effects of 9/11?

    Congress does seem to pick odd times to feign fiscal responsibility. There definitely are real damages here, and there are also people who got sick as they got older just the same as people who were nowhere near NYC on 9/11. Would be nice to hear a union benefits expert explain the gaps in coverage and also to hear medical doctors tell us what is isn’t caused by the WTC dust (I see constant ads from slip and fall lawyers saying everything is because of 9/11). That would carry far more weight for me than a self-righteous comedian. 

     

    • #6
    • June 12, 2019, at 6:54 AM PDT
    • Like
  7. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    I am concerned that this is political grandstanding. I know nothing about the facts. The CBS story (linked in the tweet embedded in the OP) explains that much of the law (called the “James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act”) was reauthorized in 2015 for 90 years. However, one portion (called the “Victim Compensation Fund”) was extended only 5 years, to 2020.

    The article says that the “Victim Compensation Fund” was “aimed to provide necessary financial support for the thousands who suffered serious medical issues, including a spate of cancer diagnoses, after the 2001 attacks.” Apparently this includes both first responders and others.

    I simply do not know enough about the necessity of such assistance to reach a conclusion. If someone was permanently disabled by the 9/11 attacks, I would generally expect that they would qualify for Social Security disability, and (if a first responder) would probably also qualify for long-term disability from their employer (probably the police or fire department). They might qualify for workers’ compensation coverage, as well, though I don’t know for certain.

    I do see a serious possibility for abuse in this type of law. Imagine that someone who was in the vicinity of 9/11 subsequently develops cancer. Was that caused by the 9/11 attack, or not? This is often very, very difficult to determine. The CBS article references a medical school professor who supposedly testified that “more than 11,000 types of cancer have been reported since the attacks on 9/11.”

    This does not seem plausible to me, and may simply be a misquote, though I know little or nothing about it. Are there 11,000 types of cancer? I suspect that she meant 11,000 instances of cancer, but this does not mean that every such cancer was caused by the 9/11 attack.

    I have no idea whether this is a good law, or not. It simply strikes me that both Mr. Stewart and Ms. Mandel are making a purely emotional argument, which I find unpersuasive.

    • #7
    • June 12, 2019, at 10:08 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. Vance Richards Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I am concerned that this is political grandstanding. I know nothing about the facts. . .

    I do see a serious possibility for abuse in this type of law. Imagine that someone who was in the vicinity of 9/11 subsequently develops cancer. Was that caused by the 9/11 attack, or not? This is often very, very difficult to determine. The CBS article references a medical school professor who supposedly testified that “more than 11,000 types of cancer have been reported since the attacks on 9/11.”

    This does not seem plausible to me, and may simply be a misquote, though I know little or nothing about it. Are there 11,000 types of cancer? I suspect that she meant 11,000 instances of cancer, but this does not mean that every such cancer was caused by the 9/11 attack.

    I have no idea whether this is a good law, or not. It simply strikes me that both Mr. Stewart and Ms. Mandel are making a purely emotional argument, which I find unpersuasive.

    The grandstanding makes it so anyone asking honest questions can be shouted down as an uncaring person who wants to see others suffer, which is nonsense.

    My father-in-law was there when the buildings came down. 11 years later he died of cancer. Maybe my mother-in-law could get money from the Victim’s Compensation Fund, but a man dying at age 78 hardly sounds unusual. At any rate, a lot of lawyers are getting rich off this fund. Let’s hope there is enough left over for the real victims.

    • #8
    • June 12, 2019, at 10:31 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. MarciN Member

    I was thinking about this issue just yesterday with respect to Kent’s post “The Killer Within.” In that context, it occurred to me that bin Laden and his fellow jihadists had much more suffering planned for people in New York and Washington than actually occurred. It was the unimaginably brave people on Flight 93 who drove their plane into the ground in Pennsylvania so as to save the lives that their plane was destined to take and the thousands of first responders in New York and Washington who risked their lives to save anyone they could that kept the suffering and death toll as low as it actually was. bin Laden’s plan was obviously to terrorize and injure or kill thousands more people.

    I think we should do as much as we can for the first responders as a way of honoring them for preventing the full pain and suffering bid Laden intended for his victims. In the ever-present battle between good and evil, the first responders were the good that stopped the evil in its tracks.

    • #9
    • June 12, 2019, at 8:03 PM PDT
    • Like
  10. Larry3435 Member

    There is absolutely no question that all first responders should be compensated for work related injury or illness, whether or not their condition is associated with a big event like 9/11. And, of course, they are – through workers’ compensation, disability benefits, and their government paid health insurance. In the case of 9/11 first responders they also received compensation from the City and the federal government, and numerous charities. Was it enough? There probably is no such thing as “enough” money to compensate someone for a life-changing injury or illness, but it has been pretty generous and it has gone on for two decades now.

    Mr. Stewart, of course, makes it sound like the only two alternatives are to pass more federal funding or to throw these people out on the street to die. That’s how Mr. Stewart made his reputation – by ignoring the facts and virtue signalling his outrage over things that never actually happened and never would actually happen. I have to admit, it seems to be effective. But it stinks, nonetheless.

    • #10
    • June 13, 2019, at 4:37 AM PDT
    • 2 likes