Jon Stewart Wants 9/11 First Responders Honored The Way They Deserve To Be, And He's Pushing D.C. To Make It Happen
Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart will lobby alongside 9/11 first responders during a trip to Washington, D.C., next Wednesday, just days after the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attack. Stewart will be pushing for a permanent extension of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which is scheduled to expire next month. But Stewart and many others don't understand why members of Congress wouldn't permanently implement a health program to ensure that 9/11 first responders — many of whom are battling chronic diseases like asthma, cancer, or obstructive pulmonary disease, according to CNN — always have access to quality care for their illnesses.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, has been fighting alongside Stewart to make the bill permanent so that the more than 30,000 responders who use its services won't go without the care necessary to live with their illnesses, which were caused by their work at ground zero. At least two-thirds of those 30,000 first responders who would be affected if the act is not renewed "have multiple injuries including chronic diseases like asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, and gastro esophageal reflux disease and cancers," according to the Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act website. Stewart talked about the legislation with Gillibrand during an episode of his show in July, according to CNN:
We're not letting this go this time. This one, honestly, is one of the most galling examples of a legislature removed from the purpose of their job.
Now, Stewart will walk the halls of Congress with roughly 100 9/11 first responders next Wednesday in a strong effort to pressure lawmakers to continue funding the act. Gillibrand, and a number of other lawmakers within both parties, have applauded Stewart for his efforts, but Gillibrand tweeted that his actions shouldn't be necessary:
Honored Jon Stewart will join 9/11 heroes next week, but fact is, they shouldn’t have to walk the halls of Congress at all. It’s our moral obligation to ensure they get care.
In 2010, Stewart did a 10-minute segment called "I Give Up" where he conveyed his extreme confusion and dissatisfaction toward the fact that Congress had — yet again — not taken any action on a similar bill then and almost left it to expire completely, according to CNN. "This is making me angry, and I feel like screaming," Stewart said in the episode. During the episode, Stewart brought in four first responders to share how they felt about a Senate filibuster of a health bill that would have granted them care at the time. Kenny Speck, a 9/11 responder with the Fire Department of New York, is suffering from cancer that was brought on by his work at ground zero, according to a video of Stewart's segment:
We're disgusted. We're disappointed. And, unfortunately, we're hurt. We are proud protectors of the Constitution — for the people, by the people — and we want to know where it was lost.
John Devlin, an operating engineer in heavy equipment said that they weren't trying to make the conversation a "me, me, me," one. Instead, he told Stewart that he and the other first responders were speaking out because some first responders are so sick that they don't have the ability to campaign. Devlin said he was suffering from stage 4 inoperable throat cancer and cancer on both of his lymph nodes, according to the segment:
We are patriots of this country. We went down there for the love of this country and for the love of our city. We didn't turn our back on anybody. For us to be here now, nine years later, still fighting just for our health — for our compensation.
It's pretty clear that Stewart won't stop until Devlin and other 9/11 first responders get the care that they need and deserve.