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First Responders

First responders from SCPD and Terryville FD helped deliver a baby at a Port Jefferson Station home. Photo by Dennis Whittam

By Anthony Petriello

A miracle occurred in the early morning hours Aug. 9 as first responders helped deliver a baby girl at a Port Jefferson Station home. Sixth Precinct Officers Jon-Erik Negron, Brian Cann and Karl Allison responded to a 911 call on Lisa Lane. Upon arrival, they found a full term expectant mother, Keri Fort, in active labor and in need of assistance.

“The Suffolk County PD was the first to get to my house and got us all calmed down-it was kind of a crazy scene as you might imagine,” Fort said in a Facebook message. “They were a perfectly well-oiled machine with little talking to each other. They all knew what to do without a word, concentrating on me and telling me what to do next. My mother dialed 911 at 2:20 a.m. and sweet little Stella was born at 2:44 a.m.”

According to police, Fort’s water had broken already when they arrived, and her contractions were approximately five minutes apart. Shortly after, Terryville Fire Department paramedics Kevin Bader, Gina Brett, and Chris Meyers arrived on the scene to assist and take control of the situation.

“It was a collaborative effort,” Cann said.

Working together, officers and paramedics were able to deliver the baby girl, named Stella Blue Fort, in the residence at approximately 2:44 a.m., and transfer the mother and baby girl to the St. Charles Hospital Labor and Delivery unit by ambulance in good health. Fort and her daughter have since been released from the hospital and returned home.

This is not the first time Negron has had to spring into action to help bring a baby into the world while on duty. Last August, Negron helped save a newborn in Mount Sinai after a mother gave birth unexpectedly at home, and the baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. In June, Negron was named the baby’s godfather by the parents.

Callahans Beach in Fort Salonga. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

News of plans to construct a cell tower on a town-owned Fort Salonga beach is getting a warm reception from first responders and rescue workers.

Plans for a new cell tower at Callahans Beach has public safety officials across the Town of Smithtown excited that it may increase response times and stop misplaced emergency calls to Connecticut.

“Say you’re down at the bluff, sometimes your 911 call would go across the Sound to Connecticut because it’s the easiest and quickest line of sight,” Chief John Valentine, director of Smithtown’s public safety department said. “Most of the departments [in Connecticut] know to transfer them to 911 in Suffolk County, but those time frames, although only miniscule, are valuable time to any 911 emergency.”

This thing is imperative because it’s going to complete communications we need for our public safety issues, which includes everything — fire, ambulance, police…”
– Ed Wehrheim

The new cell tower is to be built in a corner of theupper parking area, adjacent to the campground portion of the beach property, according to Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R). Every cell tower erected in the township has the Town of Smithtown’s public safety network built into it, and this new cell tower will complete the triangulation created by existing towers at the Landing Country Club in Smithtown and the Smithtown Public Safety building on Maple Avenue. 

Valentine said that there are dead zones in terms of public safety communications in the Kings Park Fire Department area, in Nissequogue and the Village of the Head of the Harbor hamlets.

Wehrheim said that completing this cell tower will enable first responders at all levels to better react to emergencies.

“This thing is imperative because it’s going to complete communications we need for our public safety issues, which includes everything — fire, ambulance, police — all our public safety people will all be on that tower,” the supervisor said.

The Smithtown Town Board voted unanimously at its June 12 meeting to sign the lease agreement between the town and Propagation Solutions Inc., for Site Tech Wireless  LLC to install the approximately 150-foot cell tower. Valentine said the planning department still has to go through procedures before installation can begin.

The town’s public safety director said the effort to build a third cell tower has been in the works for the past four years, and has been held up in the process of getting approval from both town and state entities as it is being built on parkland.

If the chief gets on scene to say there’s an issue like a cardiac arrest, and he can’t reach the dispatcher to relay that information, it might be life threatening.”
– Peter Laura Sr.

“We’re anxious to get it done, Valentine said. “The Kings Park Fire Department and all our other users on our network are anxious to get it in place.”

Kings Park Fire Commissioner Peter Laura Sr. said that the area of Fort Salonga is notoriously bad for radio reception because of its hilly landscape.

“It’s of great importance to us, we need to be able to talk,” Laura said. “If the chief gets on scene to say there’s an issue like a cardiac arrest, and he can’t reach the dispatcher to relay that information, it might be life threatening. This tower would hopefully solve the radio communication problem.”

Valentine said that he has not heard any concerns or complaints regarding the installation of a new cell phone tower. 

“We have been met with nothing but encouragement to get this done from both public safety interests and residents,” he said.

Pete Hans, the principle planner for the Town of Smithtown, said that the planning department must still complete a local waterfront revitalization program review, which if everything goes according to plan will be presented at the July 17 town board meeting. In the best case scenario the cell tower should be presented for approval to the board by September.

Dredging crew rescues five town employees from frigid waters after boat capsized

Gibson & Cushman dredgers Keith Ramsey and Che Daniels accept proclamations for helping rescuing five Town of Smithtown employees including Joseph Link, on right. Photo by Kevin Redding.

By Kevin Redding

A Bay Shore-based dredging crew sprung into action while working on the Nissequogue River in December when a boat capsized, hurling five Town of Smithtown employees into the frigid waters. For their heroic efforts, the seven-man crew, responding medical professionals and first responders, were honored by Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) during a special ceremony at town hall Jan. 30.

“A first responder’s primary duty is to protect all others before self,” Wehrheim said before presenting plaques to the heroes. “But, when unforeseen conditions put the lives of first responders at risk, who protects them?”

I was just trying to keep my head above the surface.”

— Joseph Link

It started out as a routine day for three bay constables and two parks employees as they steered their vessel around the head of the river Dec. 12 removing buoys. While attempting to pull a seventh buoy from the water, however, a rogue wave came crashing in from Long Island Sound. It flooded the boat, overturning it in a matter of seconds. All five employees struggled to swim the 40-feet to shore against the rough current.

“I couldn’t get anywhere, the waters were way too strong,” said Joseph Link, of one of the rescued employees. Link said he wasn’t wearing a life jacket at the time as it obstructed his work. “I was just trying to keep my head above the surface.”

Sgt. Charles Malloy, a senior bay constable, said he faced different dangers when he was knocked overboard.

“I was swimming away from the rear of the boat because the motors were still engaged and the propellers were still spinning and within arm’s reach,” Malloy said.

Luckily, members from Gibson & Cushman Dredging Company were about 500 yards away when the accident occurred, setting up equipment by the river’s bluff. Once they saw the boat capsize, the crew acted quickly.

“We just grabbed some lines or whatever else we could find and started throwing them out to pull them toward us,” said dredger Keith Ramsey.

They yanked four of the five stranded employees onto their boat. One member, Dan Landauer, managed to swim back to shore on his own.

“It was just our reaction,” said dredger Che Daniels. “We saw that people were in the water. The water was cold, like 40 degrees [Fahrenheit]. The wind was blowing. We were just doing what we would do for anybody on our crew if something were to happen like that.”

Upon reaching the shore, Kings Park volunteer firefighters and Kings Park EMS responders rushed to the scene. Two men were treated for hypothermia and exposure. All were transported to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center and out of the hospital within an hour without any lasting injuries.

We were just doing what we would do for anybody on our crew if something were to happen like that.”

— Che Daniels

Paul Taglienti, director of emergency medical service at St. Catherine’s, was honored during the ceremony. He said his staff’s job had been about 95 percent done for them. “This was a circumstance where I think everything was done pretty much ideally,” Taglienti said. “They were rescued very quickly and we just kept an eye on them to make sure everyone was OK.”

Wehrheim was joined by town council members Lisa Inzerillo (R) and Tom McCarthy (R), to present proclamations to all seven members of Gibson & Cushman — Daniel Engel, Daniels, Michael Lake, Jordy Johnson, Joseph Johnson, Ramsey and Peter Wadelton — although only Ramsey and Daniels were on hand to accept them. 

“I was glad when I heard they helped out, but I also would expect that from them,” said Matthew Grant, supervisor of the dredging crew’s project. “If something happens, we help out. Not many people are out on the water at that time of year, so it was a good thing we were there.”

Those rescued echoed the sentiment.

“If it wasn’t for the dredge crew — use your imagination,” Malloy said. “The outcome would’ve been far more tragic.”

Landauer also expressed his gratitude.

“There wasn’t a hiccup in anything they did, they saw us and boom — they jumped right on it,” he said. “I hope they never have to do it again, but I’m very glad that they were there that day.”

Firemen salute the American flag during the East Northport Fire Department's 9/11 memorial on Sunday, Sept. 11. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Rich Acritelli

It was 15 years ago this week, Sept. 11, 2001, that Americans were putting their children on school buses and going about their daily routines when our nation was attacked. Terrorists boarded and later commandeered passenger planes that were fully loaded with fuel and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The terrorists that took over Flight 93 originally planned to strike the Capital building or the White House, but cries of “Let’s roll” rang out, and the passengers fought back against the perpetrators.

While Mike Piazza of the New York Mets was an exceptional baseball player, he also served as a leader for his team and the community, and even helped with a humanitarian drive that was based out of Shea Stadium to aid the recovery workers. He spoke about that day during his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech in July.

“To witness the darkest evil of the human heart and how it tore many loved ones from their families will forever be burned in my soul.”

— Mike Piazza

“Sept. 11, 2001 is a day that forever changed our lives. To witness the darkest evil of the human heart and how it tore many loved ones from their families will forever be burned in my soul,” the transplanted New Yorker, who was born in Philadelphia, said. “But from tragedy and sorrow came bravery, love, compassion, character and, eventually, healing. Many of you give me praise for the two-run home run on the first game back on Sept. 21 to push us ahead of the rival Braves. But the true praise belongs to police, firefighters, first responders, who knew they were going to die, but went forward anyway.”

The New York Yankees, who were in pursuit of another World Series title, visited firehouses, and players had tears in their eyes moments before they played in games.

Today, Americans are watching a hotly contested election. It was 15 years ago that many citizens put aside their political beliefs to be unified against a common enemy. Rescue crews traveled from all over the nation to head toward the remains of the World Trade Center, yellow ribbons were tied on trees across the United States and the undeniable will of our people was quickly demonstrated to the world. While it seems like yesterday that we watched these horrific events occur, there are current high school students that may have lost a parent that day. It is these boys and girls who were so young that they do not easily recollect their loved ones that were amongst the almost three thousand Americans killed tragically. This is not just another historic day to briefly remember — it is still with our citizens on a daily basis. Our children have lived under the heightened security at our airports, infrastructure centers like Pennsylvania Station and the George Washington Bridge, and during major sporting events. During every home game since 9/11, the New York Yankees invite veterans and rescue workers to be honored, as both teams line up to listen to “God Bless America.”

Our North Shore communities were a considerable distance from the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. But unflinchingly, local rescue and support workers from these towns traveled every day and spent hours away from their families to be at ground zero. May we never forget the sacrifices of members of these numerous agencies that are currently suffering from 9/11-related illnesses. It should also be remembered that while our North Shore towns are miles from the city, these communities and schools lost residents and graduates as a result of these acts of terrorism. Thank you to all our rescue workers and military branches that continue to protect the security and values of the United States, at home and abroad.

Fire departments, town and village governments, and schools all participated in memorial events to commemorate the lives lost during Sept. 11, 2001. Residents came to show support, as well as help read off the names of those who perished, lay wreaths and take a moment to honor the American lives lost, and all the first responders and civilians who helped save lives at Ground Zero.

 

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Jon Stewart, Raymond Pfeifer and John Feal talk after the ceremony honoring those lost on and after Sept. 11, 2001. Photo from John Feal

To the wall, the names were new, but to those at 9/11 Responders Remembered Park, they brought with them years of courage and heroism. All eyes were on the park on Saturday as 61 more names were etched into its wall of heroes, honoring those who paid the ultimate price for their efforts in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The event was packed with first responders, their families, lawmakers and advocates, including advocate and first responder John Feal of Nesconset’s FealGood Foundation and comedian Jon Stewart.

“This park was built … to serve the 9/11 community with grace, dignity and humility,” Feal said to the crowd before the new names were read aloud. “I hope this park will help tell the stories of our nation’s greatest resources: its citizens, both uniformed and nonuniformed.”

Feal and several members of what they called the 9/11 community have descended upon the Nesconset park every year since it was established in 2009 to add names to the wall of heroes, paying tribute to those who have died on or after that horrific day. Martin Aponte, president of the North Shore park, reminded the crowd that they were not there to mourn, but to reflect, remember and recognize the stories behind the names on the wall behind him.

Jon Stewart and John Feal observe the wall of heroes at the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park. Photo from John Feal
Jon Stewart and John Feal observe the wall of heroes at the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park. Photo from John Feal

“To maintain this park is the least we can do for those who have served our nation with distinguished honor, courage and sacrifice,” he said. “We are here only to serve a fragile fraternity of heroes who come here to rest and join their brothers and sisters. Their story is told through this park.”

Feal, along with Stewart and New York City firefighter Raymond Pfeifer, used the ceremony as a means to celebrate a recent legislative victory they helped accomplish nationwide after years of pushing Congress to renew the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act, which supports first responders whose illnesses are linked to their efforts on 9/11. For his tireless advocacy on the subject, Pfeifer was awarded an American flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol along with a golden firefighter’s axe on a plaque.

Pfeifer, who spent eight months on top of the debris pile of the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, has stage-four cancer and spoke from a wheelchair about the collaborative efforts it took to overcome that day.

“Today is a good day. It’s sad, but nobody gets out alive. Anytime you can tell a story about [first responders] that’s a good thing,” he said.

With a heavy-hearted expression on his face, Stewart read each of the names that were added to the wall that day in somber tone. The tolling of a bell followed each name. After his remarks, the comedian and former host of “The Daily Show” remarked on his time on the front lines of advocating for first responders’ benefits. He spoke to inspire those in attendance against the fear of terrorism, saying “we win” because of America’s unending resource of courage.

“I’m always humbled when I’m in the company of Ray and John, and all the other responders,” he said. “I can never in my life repay the debt that you all gave to not just me, but to the city and to the country. We owe you, and we will continue to owe you forever.”

Residents gather to discuss drug and heroin use, rehabilitation and laws at the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates’ monthly meeting. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“Addiction is a family disease.”

That’s what Tracey Budd and social worker Mary Calamia had to say during the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates’ community event about heroin use on Long Island.

Around 20 residents gathered at the Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars headquarters on Feb. 24 to discuss drug laws, heroin use in the community and how to combat the Island’s heroin issues.

Tracey Budd, of Rocky Point, founded the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates group to help work with families to try to combat the drug issues on Long Island. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Tracey Budd, of Rocky Point, founded the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates group to help work with families to try to combat the drug issues on Long Island. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Budd, of Rocky Point, established the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates group last fall. Her son, Kevin Norris, was one of many heroin users on Long Island before he died of an overdose in September 2012. Budd hoped to educate Long Island communities on drug awareness and establish a support system for drug users and their families who are seeking help, with the creation of this group. She tries to hold a meeting at least once a month.

“I’m hoping that as parents, neighbors, [and] friends, we learn how to advocate [about drug awareness] a little more, rather than putting it on Facebook,” said Budd about residents who have sought help, especially with acquiring Narcan, through social media outlets. She was among several residents, including Dorothy Johnson, who said people need to change how they view heroin users.

Johnson is a member of the Great Bay coalition. She lost her son four years ago to a heroin overdose and has fought to increase drug awareness ever since. For Johnson, heroin and drug users aren’t junkies, but everyday people in need of help.

“It’s not that they’re bad and sitting on a street corner,” Johnson said. “It’s somebody that’s walking around in a suit and tie that comes from a good family.”

Many of these families do not change how they view or deal with their relative once they return from a rehabilitation center. According to Calamia, treating rehabilitated individuals as though they still use heroin or other drugs will only encourage future drug use.

In light of heroin use on Long Island, the Suffolk County Police Department started using Narcan in August 2012, according to Dr. Scott Coyne, chief surgeon for the police department. The anti-overdose medication was used more than 470 times in 2013 and 2014 and 543 times last year. While Narcan allows officials and those trained to administer it to save people who overdose on heroin or opiate-based drugs, public and safety officials said some drug users abuse the system.

Sgt. Keith Olsen, on right, speaks at the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates’ meeting. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Sgt. Keith Olsen, on right, speaks at the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates’ meeting. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Capt. William Murphy said the police department has saved an unidentified Mastic Beach resident around 11 times using Narcan. Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) added that one woman who got into a car crash on Middle Country Road and Nicolls Road a few weeks ago demanded Narcan from First Responders. According to LaValle, officials can’t test a resident’s blood after receiving Narcan.

Currently, patients can go home shortly after officials administer the medication. Budd is trying to establish a 72-hour hold for these patients, which will allows hospitals to monitor patients following the procedure.

She also helped establish a 24-hour hotline for drug users and their families or friends who are looking for help, after she attended a conference at the Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s (D) office last September. That hotline should be up and running, according to Budd, by April 1.

“Sometimes I feel bad for the young kids we’re locking up,” said Sgt. Keith Olsen of the SCPD. “They need help. They’re not the dealer. They’re not turning it over. They’re not the ones causing trouble.”

Squad says it services highest call volume in town

Huntington Community First Aid Squad is the subject of a recent study. File photo

A report shows that Huntington Community First Aid Squad is requesting more help from neighboring fire departments than any other ambulance service in Huntington.

According to the report, commissioned by Huntington Town, five volunteer fire departments in the town approached town officials about an increase in requests from the Huntington ambulance squad to respond to calls in the squad’s service area.

HCFAS made more requests for ambulance support than those five departments combined, according to the report.

In a phone interview this week, Alyssa Axelrod, vice president of HCFAS, said that the study is misleading because it does not mention that the squad receives more calls than the five other departments combined.

HCFAS was formed in 1967 as a nonprofit and is the only exclusive volunteer ambulance program in the town. The taxpayers and Huntington Town fund the squad’s operations.

The chiefs at the respective fire departments started noticing an increase in requests starting in 2013, according to the study.

Huntington Town responded to those concerns by hiring Medic Health to assess the operational practices of HCFAS and provide recommendations to reduce the number of requests to neighboring fire departments and ambulance squads.

The study began in June 2014. Consultants worked with the Huntington ambulance squad, representatives of Suffolk County Fire Rescue and Emergency Services and Huntington Town to gather and analyze information.

The study found instances where HCFAS was understaffed during certain shifts.

In one graph, the study shows times of the day and days of the week where current staffing levels, which is a minimum of two staffed ambulances, may not be sufficient to cover the community’s demand. The study states that 1 and 5 p.m. are the two times of the day where resources are lacking the most, during six out of the seven days of the week, according to the study. Saturday from 1 to 7 p.m. is the busiest.

Currently the HCFAS services Huntington Town with a minimum of two on-duty ambulance crews based at the station for daytime shifts, and one crew for overnight shifts, according to Axelrod.

The study also highlighted a problem caused by the staff being made up entirely of volunteers.

Commitments from volunteers varied considerably for overnight and daytime coverage, according to the study. The report stated that 17 percent of the planned shifts had an insufficient number of members to staff the desired two ambulances. A chart showed the number of ambulances the HCFAS can field during different shifts based on member commitment. Friday, Saturday and Sunday overnight shifts only have enough member commitments to staff one or fewer ambulances, according to the chart. This is the same for 7 to 11:00 a.m. shifts on Friday and 3 to 7 p.m. shifts on Friday and Saturday.

Although there is no official time for how quickly an ambulance should respond to a call, organizations have given time limits to respond to life-threatening calls.

The Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services said a total response time standard of eight minutes and fifty-nine seconds is expected for life-threatening calls.

In 2014, the HCFAS was able to be on the scene to 62 percent of their calls within eight minutes of the call receipt, 76 percent within 10 minutes and 89 percent within 15 minutes. According to the study, 11 percent of the calls required more than 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive on the scene.

If an ambulance can’t respond to the scene, mutual aid requests come into play.

Mutual aid requests were designed to allow surrounding departments to assist each other during times of unusual demand for services, like mass casualty situations or disasters. Volunteer-based organizations like HCFAS also resort to mutual aid requests when they are unable to muster sufficient resources to staff an ambulance and respond to a call.

During the first five months of 2015, HCFAS requested mutual aid 41 times compared to 23 times by all the adjacent departments.

The study concludes with eight recommendations for the HCFAS to reduce its mutual aid requests. They include employing dedicated staff to provide coverage for shifts that are too difficult to staff with current volunteer squad members, restructuring the recruitment and orientation process to reduce time investment for prospective members, and more.

It also states Huntington Town should mandate the submission of monthly performance measurements, including response time performance reports and establishing response time expectations.

Axelrod said she believes that there is a misunderstanding about what this study is about.

“We are a busy department,” Axelrod said. “This year we will do 60,000 calls. We’re stripped of our percentage of calls we get in this report. The report doesn’t show that we respond to more calls than the five other departments combined.”

She said this makes the report confusing, but there were helpful discoveries and some recommendations that HCFAS wants to integrate moving forward, according to Axelrod.

She said the squad is changing how it brings in members as it’s currently a lengthy process.

“The process is steeped in caution,” Axelrod said. “We are very careful when we vet people before we let them ride in an ambulance.”

She also said the squad has considered non-volunteers, and has added a line item to their budget for 2016 to add paid personnel. According to Axelrod, the squad’s budget for this year will be cut by 15 percent, so they will have to look into other funds if they want to hire employees.

“The bottom line is we do a great job and these other departments do a great job,” Axelrod said. “But when you take out the number of calls we respond to, it makes us look deficient.”

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John Feal speaks at an event advocating for first responders in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. File photo

The definition of hero is a person who is admired, or idealized, for courage. And we can’t think of a more courageous act than stepping up and putting others first in the aftermath of a tragedy like the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

When the dust had settled on that horrific day, elected leaders stood hand-in-hand with our first responders, whether they were firefighters, police officers or just volunteers. The narrative was that we would honor their sacrifices and do whatever it took to back them up, long after the debris was removed.

And yet here we are, 14 years later, making them wait to see whether the government will have their backs when they need it most. Never forget, right?

This week, Nesconset native John Feal headed to Washington, D.C., alongside other heroic first responders from across the Island, state and country to call on Congress to renew the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Originally approved five years ago, the legislation helped provide health care and programs to more than 33,000 of our first responders and their families because of complications stemming from their efforts at Ground Zero. But that legislation is slated to expire next month, and it’s not clear whether it will be renewed.

What happened to doing whatever it took to support our heroes? It is shameful to have this same discussion every few years, once legislation expires, because all that does is turn these people into political bargaining chips. To us, that doesn’t seem like a worthy reward for their sacrifices.

It’s time to take permanent action so people like Feal and the many others who worked alongside him know that we will have their backs — because they had ours when we needed it most.

North Shore natives travel to Washington with hopes of swaying lawmakers to renew health care benefits

John Feal speaks at the September 11 memorial ceremony in Commack last week. Photo by Brenda Lentsch

The 9/11 first responders who have fought for years to get health care support are heading back to Washington, D.C., in hopes of ushering in the renewal of the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act. And for one Nesconset resident, change cannot come soon enough.

Parts of the bill will expire next month, and other parts in October 2016.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act would extend the programs of the original Zadroga act indefinitely. It was introduced to Congress in April and currently has 150 bipartisan co-sponsors.

“When this bill expires, our illnesses do not expire,” said John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, in a phone interview. Feal, of Nesconset, has been walking the halls of Congress for the past eight years to help get this bill passed.

He is also a 9/11 first responder who worked on the reconstruction at Ground Zero, and lost half of his foot in the process. He suffered from gangrene, but he says his injuries “pale in comparison to other first responders.”

President Barack Obama signed the current Zadroga act into law in 2011 and established the World Trade Center Health Program, which will expire in October if not renewed.

The WTC program ensured that those whose health was affected by 9/11 would receive monitoring and treatment services for their health-related problems. It consists of a responder program for rescue and recovery workers and New York City firefighters, and a survivor program for those who lived, worked or went to school in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Zadroga act also reopened the September 11th Victims Compensation Act, which allows for anyone affected to file claims for economic losses due to physical harm or death caused by 9/11. That will expire in October of next year.

Feal said he was asked by television personality Jon Stewart to come on “The Daily Show” in December 2010, but the Nesconset native said he did not want to leave the real legislative fight in D.C. Instead, he helped get four 9/11 responders to the Dec. 16, 2010, episode, who helped shed light on the ongoing battle these responders were dealing with in Congress.

“He was definitely one of the reasons the bill got passed,” Feal said of Stewart. Stewart accompanied Feal and many other first responders when they traveled to Washington, D.C, on Wednesday, Sept. 16, and took part in a mini rally.

The bill did not pass the first time it was presented to Congress back in 2006. A new version was drafted in 2010 and passed in the House of Representatives, but was having trouble getting through the Senate due to a Republican filibuster. The bill received final congressional approval on Dec. 22, 2010, and was enacted by the president on Jan. 2, 2011.

“As we get older these illnesses will become debilitating,” Feal said. “Not extending this bill is criminal. People will die without it. It’s a life-saving piece of legislation.”

Jennifer McNamara, a Blue Point resident and president of The Johnny Mac Foundation, is also actively involved in the fight to keep responders health costs covered. Her late husband, John McNamara, passed away in 2009 from stage IV colon cancer.

He was a New York City Firefighter and worked more than 500 hours at the World Trade Center in the aftermath of 9/11. He worked with responders to get support for the Zadroga bill before he died.

“I made him a promise to continue to lend support to get this legislation passed,” Jennifer McNamara said in a phone interview. When her husband passed away, she said there weren’t as many responders getting sick as there are now. “People are dying more quickly, and more are getting diagnosed with cancers and other illnesses.”

The two big issues that McNamara said she feels need to continue to be addressed are monitoring these diseases and coverage of costs once someone is diagnosed. McNamara said she believes that if there were better monitoring programs earlier on, her husband could’ve been diagnosed before his cancer was stage IV, and he could’ve had a better chance.

“These people did tremendous things for their country,” McNamara said. “They shouldn’t have to guess about whether they are going to be taken care of.”

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