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Congressman Nadler Statement on the Anniversary of September 11th

Washington, D.C. —  Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following statement on the 18th anniversary of September 11:

"It is hard to believe it has been 18 years. Like many New Yorkers, 9/11 seems both long ago and immediate, a memory and something I live with every day.

"I was in Washington that morning and immediately rushed back to New York by train. I saw the smoking wreckage in Lower Manhattan from my train window and expected chaos in the city. But when I exited Penn Station that evening, I was struck by the silence. It was like a scene from out of the movie "On The Beach." The city seemed empty – no cars, no people, no vehicles, no busses, nothing on the streets. Just a strange odor that hung in the air. Knowing the terror and confusion happening just 40 blocks south, the silence was eerie.

"But as we recall the fear and grief of September 11, we cannot forget the signs of hope we saw that morning and in the days, weeks, and months following the attack. The firefighters who ran into those buildings, the police officers who searched for survivors, the co-workers who carried each other down endless stairs, the strangers on the street who guided each other to safety. The construction workers who spent months clearing debris. The legacy of 9/11 is not just one of tragedy and grief. It is one of courage, self-sacrifice, and community. It is one of the American people, through Congress, appropriating $20 billion to help New York begin to recover from the terrorist attack.

"But history would not be complete if we did not acknowledge that the Federal Government exacerbated the massive environmental disaster caused by the collapse of the World Trade Center by insisting, contrary to ample evidence, that the air in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn was safe to breathe.

"Thousands of responders, from all over the country, worked on the World Trade Center site with minimal or no protective equipment. The federal government did not step in to conduct the necessary comprehensive clean-up of the schools, offices, and residences in Lower Manhattan. Instead, students were sent back to schools caught in the dust cloud before the ventilation systems were cleaned. Residents and office workers were sent back to buildings covered in asbestos.

"I joined a few environmental groups in trying to warn people that they could not believe the assurances of EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman and Mayor Giuliani that the air was not safe to breathe, that people should not return to school or to work without respiratory protection and until a proper cleanup was done. Eventually, we forced the government to acknowledge those lies and to provide healthcare and resources for those clearly made sick by their exposure to those toxins. As subcommittee chair, I held the first hearings to hold the EPA and former EPA administrator Whitman accountable for putting hundreds of thousands at risk. Those hearings were held in 2007.

"Working with Congresswoman Maloney, Congressman King, and my colleagues in New York and New Jersey, we finally got Congress to come together in 2010 to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, to establish a national health program, and to reopen the Victim Compensation Fund to provide support to sick responders and survivors. In 2015, as these programs were about to expire, we made the Health Program permanent, but reauthorized the VCF for only 5 years.

"This year, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I was incredibly proud and moved to hold a hearing on the need for additional time and money for the VCF. We heard heartbreaking testimony from sick responders and survivors: a firefighter, an FBI agent, a former high school student, the widow of a construction worker, and the late Detective Luis Alvarez, who passed away from a 9/11-related cancer just weeks after testifying. The very next day, the committee unanimously passed the bill to make the fund permanent, to restore any cuts to past awards, and to ensure the Victim Compensation Fund had all the necessary funding going forward. That bill passed the full House and Senate and went straight to the President's desk, where it was signed into law.

"Creating the Health Program and the VCF, and making those programs permanent, count among the proudest moments of my time as a Member of Congress. Through these programs, we are living up to the challenge Abraham Lincoln laid before us in his second inaugural address, that we must care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan. We will never forget 9/11. We will never forget those who perished on that day from the terrorist attacks, and we will never abandon those who battled that day and still bear the scars.

"Mr. Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Maloney for hosting this Special Order hour with me and for being such a champion for the survivors and responders over the years.

"I thank each of our colleagues who come to the floor this evening to remember those we lost and thank all of our colleagues who joined us in voting for and renewing the 9/11 healthcare act."

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