The Never Forget the Heroes Act, a bill that extends the Victim Compensation Fund for 9/11-first responders and people who were near Ground Zero after the attack on the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, was signed by President Donald Trump in Washington D.C. at the Rose Garden on Monday.
“Today, we come together as one nation to support our September 11th heroes, to care for their families, and to renew our eternal vow: Never, Ever Forget,” said Trump. “This law makes permanent financial support for families who lost precious loved ones as a result of the September 11th attacks. It also provides pensions for those who are suffering from cancer and other illnesses stemming from the toxic debris they were exposed to in the aftermath of the attacks.”
After recognizing the first responders and volunteers who served in search-and-rescue and cleanup during Ground Zero, and the families that lost loved ones, the president acknowledge the work of elected officials in both the Democratic and Republican parties, but only named GOP lawmakers at the press conference on July 29th.
Noticeably missing from the festivities was the lead co-sponsor and author of the bill, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Astoria).
Maloney’s spokeswoman said she was not invited to the press conference.
The White House, however, responded that an invitation was sent out to all members of Congress, but there were few seats set out in the Rose Garden.
“We would never have gotten this done [without] the 9/11-responders, survivors & their families who traveled to D.C. to demand Congress fulfill our promise to #NeverForget,” tweeted Maloney. “This is the least we can do as a grateful nation. This is for all the James Zadrogas, Ray Pfiefers & Lou Alvarezes.”
Zadroga, a New Jersey resident and retired NYPD detective, was one of the first 9/11-responders whose deteriorating health was attributed to exposure to toxins at Ground Zero. He later died of respiratory disease in 2006.
Pfeifer was a L.I. resident, a retired FDNY firefighter and a 9/11-activist, and he died from cancer because of exposure to toxins at Ground Zero in 2017. Before he passed, his advocacy for the extension of the VCF resulted in the legislation being briefly renewed for five years after 2015. It was set to expire Jan. 1, 2020.
Lou Alvarez was a retired NYPD detective and 9/11-activist who was laid to rest in Astoria after losing his battle with cancer on June 29, 2019. Before he died, he went to Washington D.C. a day after his 69th session of chemotherapy to testify for the permanent renewal of the VCF.
Other crucial champions of the bill who were not accredited at the bill signing included New York Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, a presidential candidate for 2020, and Chuck Schumer.
“Finally, nothing can get in the way of our first responders getting the help they are due and they very much need. It has been a long struggle, but because of the courage of the many who joined the cause, the memory of people like James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, Luis Alvarez and so many others will live on in this law.”
Despite a possible lack of an invite to the Rose Garden, Maloney wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio on July 26 for a parade for the first responders in New York City.
The NYC Police Benevolent Association, however, did acknowledge the contributions of Gillibrand and Maloney.
“Thank you to the New York Congressional delegation especially @RepMaloney @RepPeteKing and @gillibrandny for making #Renew911VCF a reality. Taking care of [and] honoring our heroes from 9/11 was the right thing to do,” tweeted NYC PBA. “Now this vital program is permanently renewed and fully funded.”