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.