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Thanking Our 9/11 First Responders

By Jared M. Placitella

As another year passes, each one placing more distance between today and those events of 13 years ago, it is all the more important to remember that while time passes, the impact of those events are still reverberating.  The towers are rebuilt; the museum completed.  But the lives of so many heroes are still broken and recovering. On September 11, 2001, we lost 343 firefighters, and 72 law enforcement officers.  All of these men and women ran into the towers when everyone else was running out.  Yet that was only the first wave.  For days, weeks, and months after the attacks a second wave of fellow firefighters, law enforcement officers, and good samaritans, left their jobs to work through the ruins in search of their brothers and sisters and possible survivors. They searched for the missing, marched through the pile, dug out of the pit and cleared the rubble all to help us move on.  In so doing they saw things that no person should see and were exposed to perhaps the most toxic environment known to man.  Yet this neither deterred their efforts nor impeded their progress.  Instead, as the days passed from fall to winter to spring scores of responders flooded into the city to help. Some of those in this second wave of responders, and their families, have already paid the ultimate sacrifice, their lives claimed by diseases created by the toxic plume of carcinogens.  For others, the fight still continues.  Many of these individuals are physically disabled.  The scars are seared into their memories as well as their skin. Just as they helped us in our time of greatest need, it is now our turn to help them in theirs.

 

   On January 2, 2011, President Obama signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010.  This Act has served two important purposes: treatment and compensation. First, the Zagroda Act amended the Public Health Service Act to create the World Trade Center Health Program.  This program provides medical surveillance and monitoring to responders and survivors who were present in the New York City area as well as responders at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  If you assisted in the recovery and rescue efforts after the September 11th attacks, you may qualify for medical benefits through the World Trade Center Health Program—even if you have not developed any illness as a result of your post-9/11 exposure.  All first responders should visit https://www.cdc.gov/wtc/index.html for more information. Second, the Zagroda Act reactivated the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, this time to compensate those injured in the debris removal efforts that occurred in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 attacks.  Those first-responders who were diagnosed with a 9/11-related eligible cancer, other than Prostate Cancer, on or before October 12, 2012, should be aware of a fast-approaching important deadline: these individuals must register a claim with the Fund by October 12, 2014 to preserve their rights.  Please visit www.vcf.gov for more information.

     I was a kid when the attacks occurred, but remember sitting with my Dad for hours as he recounted the stories he learned from the surviving family members of first responders.  My father represented them through a volunteer program he helped establish to help the families of those impacted by the attacks.  Now, as a young lawyer, I have been humbled to have the privilege to represent many of those brave men and women who were a part of that second wave of responders.  It has been my way to try to thank them for who they are and what they do. As we remember and mourn all those that we have lost, we must be thankful and appreciative for the bravest and finest among us.  So if you see a first responder today just say “thank you.”  Thank you for waking up every morning and putting your life on the line to be the first to respond to tragedy.  Thank you for running in when everyone else is running out.  Thank you for protecting and serving us in our great time of need.  Thank you for your sacrifice.

 

            Thank you.                   

 

 

Jared Placitella is an associate attorney with Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C., in Red Bank, N.J.​

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