February 18, 2008
Congressman Dennis Kucinich promised a group of first responders that he would work towards a hearing on 9/11 health that would start from sworn statements and other compiled information about the health conditions of rescue workers suffering from ground zero exposure.
"This might take awhile, but we need to start gathering information," Kucinich said. "If you’ll work with me to build the hearings, I’ll commit to one major hearing that will focus on all the concerns that you have."
It was determined 9/11 first responders who brought about the meeting. David Miller, a ground zero worker and former national guardsman now suffering from mesothelioma, pressured Rep. Kucinich to hear his case and those of dozens of other rescue workers. According to Kucinich, Miller convinced him the meeting was necessary.
Many blame the 9/11 health epidemic on the EPA for making falsely-reassuring statements about the air quality and outright lying– under apparent White House pressure– to declare the air ‘safe to breath’ and reopen Wall Street in the days after 9/11.
The meetings are preliminary, though– for now. Kucinich will examine the official statements of the EPA and other agencies and begin collecting stories, medical records and other data from rescue workers. Kucinich hopes that gathering enough affidavits and statements from those affected could lead to a substantial congressional hearing.
"This is the beginning of the dialogue. I’m a lot better informed now" Kucinich said. "Give me a few basic cases to start with."
However, at least one first responder at the meeting fears that the time passed since 9/11 will only work against those who seek aid and recognition– as it may become increasingly difficult for some rescue workers to prove their ties to ground zero rescue efforts and claim any benefits– if and when they are ever granted.
To date, government and city authorities have rejected a correlation between ground zero dust and the afflictions so many 9/11 workers are now suffering from, despite the fact that several individuals have already died from the dust’s effects.
One such individual, Hassan Emmetts, a national guardsman and 9/11 first responder, has passed away in the two weeks since he attended the meeting with Kucinich. Clearly, his death only highlights the gravity of the issues that first responders face.
John Feal, of the FealGoodFoundation.com, called the meeting "a step in the right direction." His foundation has helped to support individuals while working towards a solution for the widening health epidemic that the media continues to ignore.
David Miller also urged for help with basic living expenses while the potential hearing develops. Kucinich said he would try to help.
WeAreChange.org held a "money bomb" fundraising effort on Feb. 16 in effort to help rescue workers with medical bills and living expenses. The grassroots website www.1stResponders1st.com helped to drive donations and to increase private support from individuals.
More than $10,000 was raised– the money will go not only towards medical costs, but to living assistance and other needs. Many rescue workers have become too ill to work, and the lost wages have broken families, inflicted poverty and led to other hardships.
Meanwhile, the FealGoodFoundation.com held its second annual ‘Doo Wop’ Fundraiser Dance which aimed to raise much-needed funds as well as to spotlight the issues that face first responders.
These groups, among others, are working to "do what the government won’t"– and call on the public to support the rescue workers who were readily lionized as heroes on 9/11 but are now slipping through the cracks. The groups also raise awareness through frequent demonstrations at ground zero and many other efforts.