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Column: #NeverForget the health complications of 9/11

Even 14 years later, the memory of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is still sobering. Each anniversary marks the first major terrorist attack on U.S. soil for hundreds of years, the deaths of nearly 3,000 innocent citizens and the day that became the catalyst for a long and costly war.

When remembering the tragedy, it is customary, and necessary, to give homage to the hundreds of emergency workers and first responders who also gave their lives on that tragic day.

However, many of those first responders are still living and struggling with the medical consequences of their assistance, including both injuries received at the scene and cancer developed after exposure to toxins at ground zero.

In fact, according to renew911health.org, “Medical research has identified more than 50 types of cancer caused by 9/11 toxins. At least 3,700 people have been diagnosed with cancer that was either caused or made worse by 9/11.”

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Those are not the only chronic illnesses to result from the disaster. Many are also suffering from diseases such as asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

More NYPD officers have died from 9/11-related illnesses than actually died on Sept. 11, 2001.

These consequences are the focus of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which was signed in 2011 and provides healthcare and compensation to over 72,000 9/11 survivors and first responders.

However, that legislation is set to expire within days, and there is a disturbing lack of support for the bill, in particular from Republican presidential candidates.

The most notable part of their silence on the issue, however, stems not from a lack of support for the heroes of one of our country’s most tragic days—though that obviously bears cause for concern. Rather, the most obvious concern stems from the fact that the candidates have no problem declaring their unending patriotism, as long as it is convenient for them.

Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted on Friday: “Today, we reflect and remember all of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11. #NeverForget”. 

Sen. Rand Paul tweeted, “Today, we say a prayer for those who lost their lives and their family members. You will never be forgotten.” 

Sens. Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham published similar tweets, both echoing the theme of “Never forget.”

However, despite their assurances, many of the presidential frontrunners in the GOP seem to have, in fact, forgotten.

None of them have publicly backed the legislation, despite reminders from lobbying groups and high-profile media figures like Jon Stewart.

In fact, the only candidates to publicly back the bill are Democrats. Sen. Bernie Sanders is actually a co-sponsor of the bill, and Hillary Clinton declared her support through the group Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act.

It seems hypocritical and cold for Republicans to use such a tragedy—one that definitively changed the course of our nation’s history—as a way to boost their image, without actually living up to all their talk.

Voters need to work to hold them accountable, in particular if they want to elect a president who is patriotic not only in words, but also in deeds


Follow Maddie Pickens on Twitter.



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