In an interview on Wednesday, September 5, Jon Stewart, former FDNY deputy chief Richard Alles, and first responder rights advocate John Feal spoke with Savannah Guthrie on TODAY about the World Trade Center Health Program. Almost 17 years after the September 11 attacks on the United States, thousands of first responders are still battling numerous health issues incurred from their brave efforts to save as many lives as possible and recover those who would not make it. These courageous people continue to struggle with covering the costs associated with the diseases and injuries that resulted from their hard work at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crash site near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
“Everybody in the 9/11 community who doesn’t have cancer is looking over their shoulder, going, ‘When am I next?’” Feal told Guthrie.
Alongside with Alles, Feal lobbied tirelessly for the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. The bill was introduced to the House of Representatives on February 4, 2009, and nearly two full years later on January 2, 2011, President Barack Obama signed it into law. The act is named for James Zadroga, a New York Police Department officer who died to due exposures at Ground Zero in Manhattan. The Zadroga Act expired four and a half years after Obama signed it into law but with the help of Jon Stewart as a mouthpiece, the legislation was re-authorized and extended for 75 years.
In the first episode of The Daily Show following the 9/11 attacks, Stewart championed helping first responders after all the dust and debris had settled. In the nearly two decades since the September 11, 2001 attacks, Stewart has been one of the most vocal advocates for the World Trade Center Health Program.
“Any fool can destroy,” Stewart shared while choking back tears on that iconic episode of the Comedy Central satire series, “but to see these guys, these firefighters, these policemen, and people from all over the country literally with buckets, rebuilding, that’s extraordinary. And that’s why we’ve already won.”
Two years ago, ABC News reported that 127 FDNY firefighters died from illnesses related to working at Ground Zero. Additionally, at least another 1,396 members of the Uniformed Firefighters Association have cancer associated with exposures at Ground Zero, another 5,723 battle gastrointestinal issues, and 5,500 deal with lower airway issues. These maladies range from chronic sinus inflammation to mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
In the TODAY interview, Stewart shares that “we passed a horrible milestone, which is over 10,000 cancer cases related to 9/11.” This year alone, another 163 people passed away because of health problems brought on by their heroism at the scenes of these violent atrocities.
View the full interview here: