|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."
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.