House votes in support of continued funding for 9/11 worker compensation fund

House votes in support of continued funding for 9/11 worker compensation fund

The House of Representatives voted by a large margin on July 12 to put billions of dollars into a waning compensation fund for 9/11 workers. The legislation honored a former New York City police detective who had urged Congress to aid those sick or dying after working in toxic debris locations.

The House voted 402 to 12 in support of the legislation, which was modified a few days earlier to honor Luis Alvarez. As reported by The Bend Bulletin, Alvarez, a New York Police Department first responder, told lawmakers on June 11: “You all said you would never forget. Well, I’m here to make sure that you don’t.”

He died just a few weeks later.

Backed by all House Democrats and nearly all Republicans, the legislation now moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he aims to hold a vote by August. This commitment stemmed from Jon Stewart’s public attack on McConnell. Stewart, the previous host of “The Daily Show,” attacked lawmakers for being hesitant to add to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

Stewart has become the celebrity support for the struggle to make the 9/11 fund permanent. He was in Congress July 12 for the vote. He called it the “semifinals” and promised to return for the Senate vote, which could happen in two weeks.

“This is necessary, it is urgent, and it is morally right,” Stewart said, among a throng of first responders and lawmakers.

In a statement, McConnell said the Senate “has never forgotten the Victim Compensation Fund and we aren’t about to start now. We will consider this important legislation soon.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., instigated a quick Senate vote. “We need to let these men and women get back to their lives and families. We need to show with our actions — not just our words — that we will never forget what these heroes did for our nation. We owe them nothing less.”

The fund provides money to people who have contracted diseases tied with exposure to toxic debris after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The fund was brought to fruition by lawmakers in 2011 to recompense deaths and illnesses brought about by toxic exposure at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, in the aftermath of terrorists crashing four hijacked airliners that day in 2001. The $7.3 billion fund has provided about $5 billion to approximately 21,000 claimants. Almost 700 were for deaths that occurred long after the attacks.

The fund is running low on money. It has over 19,000 additional unpaid claims. Rupa Bhattacharyya, who is the special master that is supervising the funds, declared that pending claims, including those that were received before Feb. 1, will be paid at 50% of their prior value. Following claims are being paid at just 30%.

According to the law, the fund is planned to stop accepting claims in December 2020. The new legislation would prolong the program for seven decades, with the cost being approximately $10.2 billion for the first decade.

An intense congressional hearing last month grabbed the public’s focus, drawing them to the demise of the sick workers and the waning fund.

Alvarez had persevered through 68 rounds of chemotherapy when he testified to lawmakers. He had been preparing for another round. His words brought many in the hearing to tears.

His testimony was followed by a fuming denunciation of Congress by Stewart, who disparaged what he called Congress’ lack of inaction on such an important issue.

“It’s shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country,” Stewart said, pushing back tears.

Read the The Bend Bulletin’s story here.

Watch an interview by MSNBC with Jon Stewart and 9/11 first responder John Feal here.

World Trade Center reopens 13 years after 9/11 terrorist attack

World Trade Center reopens 13 years after 9/11 terrorist attack

NEW YORK—

On Monday, November 3, the One World Trade Center skyscraper officially opened for business, just over 13 years after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the original Twin Towers.

“Today, as we open its doors for the first time, we remember that strength and courage will always conquer weakness and cowardice, and that the American spirit, defended by proud New Yorkers, will not be defeated,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement Monday.

The 104 story tower stretches 1,776 feet high and is built on a 16 acre site. One World Trade Center is the leading building for the new World Trade complex, which will include six new skyscrapers, a transportation hub, and a memorial display.

“The New York City skyline is whole again,” said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Two memorial fountains are built on the footprints of the original towers to commemorate the 2700 lives lost during the attack. They are visible from the Northeast corner of the tower.

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Construction began in April of 2006 despite controversial political, financial and legal infighting that threatened to derail the project.

Foye promises that One World Trade Center is “the most secure office building in America.”

Architects took extra measures by working with the New York Fire Department, police forces, and worldwide construction corporations to ensure the building is safe from potential future acts of terrorism.

“The city and the world were watching us, and we had to do it right, to do it better than before,” said chief architect, T.J. Gottesdiener. “And we did it, we finally did it.”

Gottesdiener explained that the high-rise was built with steel-reinforced concrete, which is much stronger than the original towers. The stairways are built with a hardened concrete core and are wide enough to allow firefighters to move as people exit. The building’s mechanical systems are also encased in hardened concrete.

“One World Trade Center serves as a symbol of the resilience of the people of New York. That lesson and example live on today as powerful as they were 13 years ago. This is a tremendous day for all New Yorkers, proving once again that the spirit of resurgence and community lives on stronger than ever before,” said Cuomo.