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Crying Out for Justice

Recently, a superficial observer of the US political scene might get an impression that the US Congress, has nothing more to do but either "hunt" for Donald Trump, or - defend his policies and record. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The number of other controversial cases increases as well.

On Tuesday June 11 the main hall of the lower house of the Congress swarmed with the invited first responders of 9/11, struggling with their each step or riding in their wheel-chairs members of the Association of Victims of the September 11 2001. 

The object of their visit was a hearing of their urgent case by the Congress, After a short greeting, their spokesman, till recently a well-known TV standup comedian, and more recently film director Jon Stewart turned to those present in the hall to treat seriously cases of the people, whose lives were changed  once for all on that memorable day September 11, 2001. Saving lives of their brethren, and later while working on the pile of the World Trade Center, the first responders breathed in all imaginable toxins (among others - mercury and asbesthos), and started coming down with cancer diseases. Now there are 12 000 of such patients, but that number is gradually going down. This is how cancer in various guises and stages reaps its victims. In the beginning of his address Stewart turned the attention of his audience to the numerical disproportion between a one-hundred odd crowd consisting of justice seekers and roughly a dozen of members of Congressional Judiciary Committee, that was supposed to hear the testimonies of the victims of the tragedy of September 2001 and process a request for urgent help. 

A larger excerpt of his emotional speech is worth quoting: "The official response time for rescue units is 5 seconds. That’s how long it took. Instantly - all units. They went to save their brothers and sisters. Hundreds died in an instant. Thousands poured in to continue to fight for lives of others. And later… breathing problems started almost immediately. Nobody told them the truth what was going on. I am sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic. There wasn’t a person in this hall who was not assuring us: "We’ll never forget the heroes of 9/11". Where are they?  Your indifference cost these sick people and their families something valuable - time. Now I hear you can give them something for only 5 years, because you’re not quite sure what will happen to them later. But I am pretty sure what will happen to them. More of them will get sick, and some will die. Those people showed all of us why this country is great - and you are ignoring them? But you can end it tomorrow. Why this bill has no unanimous consent is beyond me. […] These people responded in 5 seconds. They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later - do yours!"

Two days following the hearing of the victims of WTC attack, one of the leaders of their organization John Feal reminded the public in a TV interview that it had been quite a long time in the United States since the rights of the victims of occupational diseases to life-long medical and pharmaceutical care benefits were recognized. One such group is made up of retired West Virginia and Kentucky miners, another one includes former personnel of nuclear power stations and radioactive waste stockpiles from Tennessee and South Carolina. 

In Jon Stewart’s view members of New York police and rescue service forces - both uniformed and ununiformed - have at least two obvious reasons to claim not only permanent benefits but also adequate indemnities. First of all, they were at war. Secondly, they fell victim of a lie propagated for a few weeks after the 9/11 disaster by the city authorities of New York and personally by mayor Rudi Giuliani. They were told that the air on the pile posed no health hazard.  Now, thousands of victims of Al-Qaida and the local politicians have been awaiting the appreciation of their sacrifice. They still hope that the bill entitled "Don’t forget the heroes of 9/11" will be passed in the nearest future.

While the president of this great country flaunts himself and his own riches, when he squanders the taxpayer’s billions on various useful and not-so-useful investments, at the same time at least 12 000 of quiet heroes of 9/11 are on the edge, and they do not want to listen to explanations there is not a penny in the budget any more. One of those guys (recently after the kidney removal) tells a reporter: "We are sick and dying out, but we’re not stupid."

Michał Stefański

Michal Stefanski - radio and press media journalist, American Studies graduate. For over 25 years he has been a columnist in the Polish-language programs on CFMB - 1280AM broadcast from Montreal. He has also been an occasional contributor to "Gazeta Wyborcza" in Warsaw, as well as the to Toronto-based Polish weekly "Gazeta". He had also his column in the Montreal "Biuletyn Polski". He has a cat named Zuzia. 

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