Remembering the Sacrifices of Our Brave First Responders
First responders are America’s first line of defense during a dangerous situation. People who are involved with fire suppression, law enforcement, and emergency medical services (EMS) are all part of the first responders. Their goal is to not only help, support, and save lives but also to do their best to prevent anything worse from happening at the scene. These brave individuals risk everything to protect innocent people. In 2001, on Sept. 11, first responders rushed to one of the worst tragedies in U.S. history: the destruction of the Twin Towers. This was a devastating and unexpected event that impacted the lives of millions, with consequences even to this day. Many first responders who sifted through the rubble became seriously ill later in life due to spending hours breathing in the dust that permeated the air. This dust was filled with a combination of glass fibers, dioxins, asbestos, cement, and many other chemicals from the burning jet fuel. Years later, thousands of first responders have been diagnosed with a number of diseases, such as cancer. However, none of them ever thought about not going to the site to try and help the people who were caught up in this disaster. “I don't think anyone went there with the thought, ‘Don’t go there. You will get sick,’” Vito Oliva with the NYPD and a responder of 9/11 said during an interview with People. “It was the opposite; everyone was another helping hand, doing what they could.” In the years that followed 9/11, health programs began to appear to help first responders and their families, as their medical needs started to increase from the 9/11 illnesses. One program is the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which provides compensation for any persons affected by the attacks. Over the years, these medical funds have required more financial support, as the number of people with
9/11-related sicknesses have increased. Many first responders have become advocates, fighting for extensions for the fund. They all want to ensure their families will be taken care of once they’re gone. Luis Alvarez worked as an NYPD bomb squad detective before he retired, and he was one of the tens of thousands of responders who came to the towers in 2001. Alvarez, who was diagnosed with 9/11-linked cancer, became a well-known spokesman for first responders who were also suffering from diseases. In June 2019, Alvarez passed away, but his legacy lives on. A post on Twitter from the House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said that Alverez “dedicated his life to protecting others and advocating on behalf of those ailing after the attacks. It is time for Congress to honor his sacrifice.” Never Forget the Heroes Act is a bill that will extend the funds for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund through 2092, significantly reducing the financial burdens of first responders and their families. Thankfully, the bill was passed and signed by the president at the end of July. This month, we remember the events that took place on 9/11 and the impact they made on our country, and we honor the people who sacrificed so much to help and protect strangers, loved ones, and friends.
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