Don’t Dump Our Heroes

Photos and article by Bob Nesoff

Since the terrible days of 911 many of those who spent hours, days and weeks on what was then called “The Pile,” have lost their lives because of the foul air they breathed. The paper masks given to them proved worthless and many of these heroes began coming down with lung disease, emphysema, cancer and more ailments than a medical dictionary could count.

One of those was NYPD Detective Jim Zadroga. Jim came from a police family. His father, Joe, was a retired New Jersey police chief and serving the public came naturally to him.

I know Joe and I knew Jim. I saw Jim pushing a stroller with his baby daughter in it while he was dragging an oxygen hose behind him. Those were his good days.

Jim was off duty when the attack happened. He had just returned home when he heard about the events at what was to become known as Ground Zero. He kissed his wife goodbye, got back in his car and returned to Manhattan. He spent nearly 500 hours working on The Pile.

Not long after that his body began to desert him. It fell apart piece by piece. He could barely breathe. His steps faltered. Instead of providing the support he so desperately needed, the NYPD virtually abandoned him. The Bloomberg Administration wanted nothing to do with him.

Why? Financial reasons. If they admitted that was what was wrong with him, they would be responsible for the costs of pension and medical treatment. Jim’s wife passed away. He was convinced that she died because of the pressure he was going through. The Police Department demanded he return to work. Doctors sent him home as unfit for duty. The Department again demanded he return. That was the merry-go-round he was in.

They thought the problem was settled when Jim died. His little daughter found him lying on the bedroom floor, dead. That’s something she will carry with her for the rest of her life.

Jim was not totally unique. Many of the responders and those who worked endless hours on the pile began to develop serious symptoms. It finally got to a point where officials could no longer deny what was happening and legislation was introduced to help these brave people medically and financially.

Congress passed legislation known today as the Zadroga Bill. But danger is on the horizon once again. The bill had a Sunset Clause; it terminates at a given date. Concerned people are demanding that their government officials keep the Zadroga Bill in affect. There are still too many who need the assistance and treatment.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was at Ground Zero on 911 as a First Responder but got away without any ill affects. I volunteered there many times after but was never assigned to work The Pile. Those who did need our help now.

Here’s a list of the members of Congress from New York City. Write to them and demand that the Zadroga Bill be continued for as long as necessary. You can address them simply at either the House (or Senate) office Building, Washington, DC.

The members are: Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; Rep. Gregory Meeks, Grace Meng, Lydia Velasquez, Hakeem Jeffries, Yvette Clark, Jerrold Nadler, Dan Donovan, Carolyn Maloney, Charlie Rangel, Joe Crowley and Jose Serrano.

Ask them politely to continue authorization of the Zadroga Bill.