HEARTBREAK & TRIUMPH

First responders who fell ill after working at the remains of the World Trade Center and their families fought hard to get needed aid. We’ll take you inside their bittersweet victory.

Aired on September 11, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

IT HAS BEEN THE HONOR OF MY LIFE TO WORK WITH THE MEN AND WOMEN BEHIND ME.

TODAY IT'S ABOUT THE HEART, JAMES, DEROGA AND JOE AND THE INTEGRITY OF RAY FIFER, AND THE COURAGE OF LOU ALVAREZ, AND THE TENACITY OF JOHN FIEL.

THEY LIFTED THIS 9/11 COMMUNITY ON THEIR SHOULDERS.

AND THEY CARRIED THEM HOME.

AND I WILL ALWAYS BE SO PROUD TO HAVE BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH IT, AND WE CAN NEVER REPAY ALL THAT THE 9/11 COMMUNITY HAS DONE FOR OUR COUNTRY, BUT WE CAN STOP PENALIZING THEM.

AND TODAY IS THAT DAY.

THAT DAY CAN EXHALE BECAUSE UNFORTUNATELY THE PAIN AND SUFFERING OF WHAT THESE HEROES CONTINUE TO GO THROUGH IS GOING TO CONTINUE.

THERE HAVE BEEN TOO MANY FUNERALS, TOO MANY HOSPICES.

THESE FAMILIES DESERVE BETTER, AND I'M REALLY, I'M HOPEFUL THAT TODAY BEGINS THE PROCESS OF BEING ABLE TO HEAL WITHOUT THE BURDEN OF HAVING TO ADVOCATE.

A SOMBER ANNIVERSARY ON THIS SEPTEMBER 11th.

GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

JOHN STEWART'S REACTION TO THE SIGNING OF THE 9/11 COMPENSATION BILL EXPRESSES HOW HARD FIRST RESPONDERS HAD TO FIGHT TO MAKE IT LAW.

THE $10 BILLION LEGISLATION PERMANENTLY EXTENDS AID TO FULLY COMPENSATE FIRST RESPONDERS AND SURVIVORS WHO HAVE FALLEN ILL AFTER WORKING AND LIVING BELOW CANAL STREET FOLLOWING THE ATTACKS.

HERE WITH INSIGHT, ATTORNEY MICHAEL BARRISH WHO REPRESENTS MANY OF THE FIRST RESPONDERS AND THEIR FAMILIES.

ALSO JOINING US WITH PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE INTO THIS 15-YEAR FIGHT IS BRIDGET GORNLEY, DAUGHTER OF BILL GORNLEY WHO DIED OF A 9/11 RELATED CANCER IN 2017.

WELCOME BACK TO THE SHOW TO BOTH OF YOU.

THANK YOU, JEN.

FIRST I JUST WANT TO GET YOUR REACTION TO HAVING THIS BILL FINALLY BE SIGNED INTO LAW AND THE FUNDING BEING EXTENDED LIKE IT WAS.

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS?

WELL, PEOPLE HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR 15 YEARS.

I HAVE BEEN ONLY BEEN DOING IT SINCE MY FATHER DIED, TWO, I CAN'T IMAGINE, JON STEWART, I DON'T THINK HE COULD BELIEVE IT WHEN HE WAS SAYING IT.

IT'S A REAL INDICTMENT ON OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM THAT YOU NEED A CELEBRITY TO GET ANYTHING AS OBVIOUSLY BIPARTISAN AS THIS DONE.

BUT THANK GOD FOR JON STEWART BECAUSE I FEAR WITHOUT HIS HELP, WE NEVER WOULD HAVE GOTTEN THIS DONE.

CAN YOU JUST GIVE US A SENSE OF WHAT IT WAS THAT YOUR FAMILY WENT THROUGH?

YEAH, I MEAN, YOU HAVE THE ROCK AND YOUR FOUNDATION WHO BECOMES ILL, THE PERSON WHO YOU THINK IS THE STRONGEST WHO'S GOING TO MAKE IT THROUGH BEING SICK AND NOW THEY'RE DYING AND IT'S LIKE THE CARPET IS RIPPED OUT FROM UNDER YOU.

YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO HANDLE THE SITUATION.

I MEAN, YOU'RE LOSING YOUR FATHER OR YOUR MOTHER, WHOEVER IT MAY BE BUT YOU'RE ALSO LOSING A SENSE OF STABILITY BECAUSE THEY WERE THE ONES THAT PROPPED YOU UP FINANCIALLY.

WITH THAT LOSS COMES ALSO THE ANXIETY OF OKAY, WE LOST THEM AND NOW WHAT.

AND OF COURSE THAT'S SOMETHING WE SEE UNFORTUNATELY HAPPEN TO TOO MANY AMERICAN FAMILIES WHERE A DIAGNOSIS LIKE SOMETHING LIKE CANCER CAN CAUSE -- IT CAN DRIVE PEOPLE INTO BANKRUPTCY.

ABSOLUTELY.

THAT'S A GREAT POINT.

THAT'S WHY I URGE EVERYBODY, ESPECIALLY THOSE IN THE SURVIVOR COMMUNITY, AND SURVIVORS ARE DEFINED BY THE 300,000 OFFICE WORKERS SOUTH OF THE CANAL STREET, THE 25,000 RESIDENTS, THE 40,000 STUDENTS AND TEACHERS.

THEY ARE ENTITLED TO THE SAME FREE HEALTH CARE AND NOW COMPENSATION FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES, GOD FORBID THEY GET ANY OF THESE 68 CANCERS, BUT IT'S NOT JUST FOR THE FIRST RESPONDERS AND THAT'S THE MESSAGE I'M SO GLAD YOU'RE HIGHLIGHTING NOW, THE SURVIVING POPULATION, THOSE LIVING DOWNTOWN MUST TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS FREE HEALTH CARE AND REGISTER NOW.

SO FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE HEARING THIS AND SAYING, YOU KNOW, WAIT A SECOND, I DID WORK DOWN THERE BUT I WASN'T WORKING ON THE PILE OR I WAS JUST, YOU KNOW, MAYBE A VENDOR OR SOMETHING, OR PERHAPS I WAS A JOURNALIST DOWNTOWN.

WHAT IS IT THAT THEY SHOULD BE DOING?

WHAT SHOULD THEY BE --

FIRST OF ALL, I DON'T MEAN TO ALARM YOUR AUDIENCE BUT WHEN THEY DID THE AUTOPSY OF JIMMY, THE DETECTIVE WHO DIED OF PULMONAR PULM PULMONARY FIBROSIS, THEY FOUND KNOWN CAR CINOGENS, SKIN CANCER BEING THE MOST PREVALENT, MY LAW FIRM ALONE REPRESENTS 1,500 MEN WITH PROSTATE CANCER, 500 WOMEN WITH BREAST CANCER.

IT'S HORRIFYING, AND WHAT THEY SHOULD KNOW IS GET YOUR PROOF NOW.

BECAUSE WE'RE GOING TO BE IN BUSINESS, ACCORDING TO THE CONGRESS NOW, THIS VICTIM COMPENSATION FUND AND THE HEALTH PROGRAM ARE GOING TO BE OPEN FOR 70 MORE YEARS.

BUT IN ANOTHER 50 YEARS, GOD FORBID YOU GET CANCER, WHERE ARE YOUR WITNESSES GOING TO BE, ARE THEY STILL GOING TO BE AROUND, AND THE GOVERNMENT REQUIRES TWO SWORN AFFIDAVITS, SO I URGE EVERYBODY, EVEN IF YOU'RE HEALTHY, IF YOU WERE SOUTH OF CANAL STREET ON 9/11 OR FOR ANY TWO WEEKS DURING THE NEXT EIGHT MONTHS, GET TWO PEOPLE TO SIGN AFFIDAVITS, GET AN EMPLOYER LETTER, RIGHT NOW BEFORE YOUR OLD COMPANY GOES OUT OF BUSINESS, BUT IT'S LIKE AN INSURANCE POLICY, GET IT NOW.

WHAT ABOUT FOR PEOPLE WHO MAY HAVE HAD A LOVED ONE WHO HAS ALREADY GOTTEN SICK AND PASSED AWAY.

GREAT QUESTION.

IT'S NOT TOO LATE FOR THEM TO MAKE A CLAIM.

NOW, THEY CAN'T MAKE A CLAIM FOR THEIR HUSBAND'S WRONGFUL DEATH OR THEIR SPOUSE'S WRONGFUL AT THE TIME -- DEATH IF IT'S BEEN MORE THAN TWO YEARS, BUT THEY CAN MAKE A CLAIM FOR THEIR SPOUSE'S PERSONAL PAIN AND SUFFERING.

THE GOVERNMENT IS GIVING $260,000 FOR CANCERS, LIFE THREATENING CANCERS.

90,000 90,000, THEY WILL PAY FOR THE LOST INCOME THE SPOUSE WAS PROVIDING FOR THE FAMILY.

THEY WILL PAY FOR INFANT CHILDREN AND WE'RE SEEING SO MANY OF THESE AGGRESSIVE CANCERS, I CALL THEM CANCERS ON STEROIDS BECAUSE THEY ARE ATTACKING PEOPLE IN THEIR 30s AND 40s.

BRIDGET AND I KNOW.

WE REPRESENT OVER A HUNDRED CHILDREN OR FORMER CHILDREN, SCHOOL CHILDREN WHO NOW HAVE CANCER.

AS I MENTIONED, IT'S HEARTBREAKING.

BRIDGET, I WANTED TO ALSO GET YOUR PERSPECTIVE BECAUSE OF COURSE YOUR FATHER WAS THERE RIGHT AWAY AS A FIREFIGHTER, A FIRST RESPONDERS AND IT WASN'T JUST THAT HE GOT SICK, IT WAS THE SPEED IN WHICH HIS CANCER PROGRESSED.

HE WAS DIAGNOSED IN DECEMBER OF 2016, AND THEN HE PASSED AWAY IN JUNE OF 2017.

SO WITHIN SIX MONTHS DIAGNOSIS TO DEATH, AND NOT ONLY THAT, BUT IT SPREAD TO HIS LUNG IN THAT TIME PERIOD, TOO.

SO LIKE MIKE SAID, THEY ARE VERY AGGRESSIVE CANCERS, THEY'RE EXOTIC IN A SENSE, THEY'RE RARE CANCERS THAT THE DOCTORS DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO APPROACH THEM BECAUSE IT'S THE FIRST TIME THEY'RE SEEING IT.

I URGE ALL OF YOUR VIEWERS, GET EDUCATED.

YOU CAN LEARN A LOT BY GOING TO 911V 911VICTIMFUND.COM, LEARN HOW TO GET ON THE HEALTH PROGRAM, THE VICTIM COMPENSATION FUND, HOW TO DOWNLOAD AFFIDAVITS, BUT DON'T LET ANYONE WHO YOU KNOW HAS BEEN AFFECTED, ANYONE WHO YOU KNOW HAS DIED, MAKE SURE THEIR FAMILIES FIND OUT WHAT THEIR RIGHTS ARE.

AND I THINK THAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW YOUR RIGHTS.

LISTEN, I WOULD ABSOLUTELY LOVE TO HAVE BOTH OF YOU BACK.

ANYTIME.

THIS WILL BE AN ONGOING STORY FOR NEW YORK FOR DECADES.

SPREAD THE WORD IS INCREDIBLE, THANK YOU.

THANK YOU BOTH SO MUCH.

APPRECIATE IT.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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