Congress passed a $4.2 billion aid package for September 11th attack victims and emergency workers Wednesday. It provides $1.5 billion to monitor the health of responders, and adds $2.7 billion to a victim’s compensation fund.
The bill passed in a last-minute compromise after Democrats agreed to reduce the amount of aid by $2 billion.
Many of the victims affected by the attacks are still in New York, but responders flocked from around the country to help out. Michael Wire is a retired union millwright from Richboro, Bucks County, who worked at ground zero for a month after the September 11th attacks. He operated a crane that removed wreckage from high above the site.
Now, he travels to New York once a year for a checkup to monitor the effects of his rescue work on his health. He says he is glad there is more money available to treat the people he meets in the waiting room who aren’t as healthy as him, as well as provide compensation for people who can no longer work due to injuries and illness.
“These are victims from this attack as much as people that died that day,” Wire said. “I spend a lot of time sitting with these people and people are hurting and they do need help.”
Wire’s brother died of leukemia after inhaling benzene dust at Ground Zero. Wine says he hopes continuing health monitoring programs will help catch other people’s diseases early and save lives.
“By monitoring people you can start to see certain things arise and recognize them before they become a major issue,” Wire said. “You can deal with them when they’re a smaller issue.”
About 40,000 responders are under medical monitoring. Researchers have found that people exposed to thick clouds of dust at Ground Zero have high rates of asthma and sinus problems.