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‘Great relief’ for families of first responders after bill signed fund 9/11 aid

08/02/2019 6:00 AM |

A bill to fully fund the Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund through 2092 was signed into law by President Trump Monday, promising ongoing support and assistance for people with 9/11-related illnesses.

The vote to restore the fund came in the wake of a federal report in February that said the fund had insufficient assets to compensate all claims and would have to make a 70% cut across the board.

The move was applauded by police and first responders.

“I think that’s fantastic,” said Dixon Palmer, a retired Riverhead Town detective who remains first vice president of the Police Conference of New York, a statewide organization representing 25,000 police officers.

“It’s definitely due,” he said. “This should have been done years ago.”

For Jean Reichardt of Mattituck, the signing was bittersweet.

Her husband, Dennis, a retired Suffolk County police officer who had been called to ground zero in the days following the terrorist attacks, died last Oct. 4 of pancreatic cancer that officials said was related to the work he did there. He was 64.

“I’m happy that all of the people who are affected will have peace of mind,” Ms. Reichardt said. “For the guys and girls with a 9/11-related illness, it’s going to be a great relief for them knowing that their families will also have some assistance and support.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Environmental Protection Agency told New Yorkers and first responders that the air at ground zero was safe to breathe.

“The federal government was wrong,” he said. “The toxic air and debris on the pile is now known to have caused over 50 different types of cancer.”

The legislation is officially known as the “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund,” including the names of three first responders who died of 9/11-related illnesses.

On June 11, Mr. Alvarez testified before Congress about the 9/11 bill with comedian Jon Stewart, who chastised the members of Congress who didn’t attend the hearing. Mr. Alvarez died June 29.

“This legislation will finally ensure victims and their families can receive the support they and their families have earned and will need for years to come,” Mr. Zeldin said.

Ms. Reichardt said many of the victims of illnesses didn’t discover them until about 10 years later. Her husband wasn’t diagnosed until 2017, six years after he retired.

But Ms. Reichardt doubts that they would have done anything different if they could.

“Those guys, including my husband, they would have been there regardless,” she said.

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