When Middle Village resident Patricia Kalborous heard that the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act had been signed into law on Sunday, her joy was tinged with regret.
Kalborous was still in the process of emptying the Maspeth apartment of her brother, NYPD Detective Kevin Czartoryski, who died on Dec. 5 from 9/11 related illness.
Czartoryski worked in a morgue at the World Trade Center where he sifted through rubble looking for remains of victims. He developed a lung aliment after inhaling debris there. If the bill was passed earlier, it could have helped to pay for his treatment.
“I feel that we finally did have victory. Bittersweet, but a victory,” Kalborous said.
“I think Kevin would be elated that other people who had illness or injury from 9/11 will get the medical support that they so rightfully deserve,” she added.
Nine years after the terrorist attacks claimed the lives of around 3,000 people, President Obama signed legislation authored by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens and Manhattan) Jerry Nadler (D- Manhattan and Brooklyn) and Peter King (R-Nassau County) which will provide healthcare to 9/11 first responders and allow victims and their families to seek compensation from a federal fund.
For both causes, the law makes a total of $4.3 billion available over the next five years — a reduction in money and time from the bill’s proposed 10-year $7.4 billion cap.
“It’s not the bill that it should be, but at least it’s a start,” said Maureen Santora, of Long Island City, mother of Christopher Santora, a firefighter killed in the 9/11 attacks.
“My son Christopher would not have been found had it not been for the workers who spent thousands of hours on that pile. I will be forever grateful to all those who volunteered. I now have a place to go to honor my son. I have a ‘body’ — or part of one — there are still over 1,100 who do not.”
Though Santora said she was happy that the legislation was finally passed, she was disappointed that it did not have unanimous support. “I am angry that 60 Congress people voted against this bill. I intend to contact their local newspapers and make sure their constituents know that these representatives have forgotten what happened on 9/11. I do not want to hear that any of them has the gall to pretend that they remember on the 10th anniversary.”
For Santora, the message gleaned from the six-year delay in passing the Zadroga bill was: “If another 9/11 ever happens again, do not volunteer. If you do you are on your own,” she said.
However, politicians were in a largely celebratory mood. Most hailed the law as the result of bi-partisan compromise and looked forward with hope.
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens and Bronx) shared the story of the death of his cousin, Battalion Chief John Moran, whose last words as he got out of a fire truck on Sept. 11 were reportedly “Let me off here. I am going to try to make a difference.”
“… I am proud in the words of John, to ‘make a difference’ for the many heroes who have suffered long enough because of their service to our great country,” Crowley said.
The legislation is paid for through fees targeting U.S. companies that outsource and fees imposed upon companies working in the United States, but based in countries that do not share in the World Trade Organization procurement agreement with the United States.
Maloney’s spokesman said both methods of funding favor the growth of U.S. business.
“I am glad this bill passed. I am only sorry that it took this long,” Santora said. “Hopefully some lives can still be saved. Families who have struggled for so very long can now hopefully have some reprieve. I hope that John Feal, Kenny Specht and all the workers who fought so very hard with Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler and Peter King know that they have indeed “done the right thing. Their tremendous efforts paid off.”
Santora and her husband, retired fire Chief Alexander Santora, have been active in fighting for the rights of survivors. They went to Washington to lobby for the Zadroga bill on more than one occasion. Maureen Santora also authored three books titled “My Son Christopher,” “The Day the Towers Fell” and “We Remember,” to educate those too young to remember the attacks.
The Zadroga Act is historic, but not unprecedented. After the Pearl Harbor attacks, Congress passed the 1942 War Hazards Compensation Act to provide healthcare and financial aid to civilians who helped recover the dead.