Another 9/11 responder death spurs new aid-bill push to help Ground Zero heroesBY Richard Sisk
June 1, 2010
Another 9/11 responder's death prompted her family to plead Monday for federal funding to treat rescuers sickened by their work at Ground Zero.
Paula Rodriguez, 44, an FDNY emergency medical technician, died Sunday at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Relatives contend Rodriguez's fatal disease was linked to the many days she spent working in the toxic cloud over lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"If this government really cared, they would have done something years ago," said Rodriguez's niece Stacy Asencio-Sutphen.
Rodriguez, of Lindenhurst, L.I., the mother of two young boys, is among nearly 900 first responders to have died from an array of ailments traced to their service at the smoldering World Trade Center.
She had battled cancer since December 2009 and died waiting for Congress and the White House to pass a $5.1 billion program to provide health care for ill 9/11 first responders.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the so-called Zadroga bill last week by a 33-to-12 vote.
The bill - named after NYPD Detective James Zadroga, who died in 2006 from respiratory disease contracted at Ground Zero - now moves to the full House.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens), reopens the federal victim compensation fund that closed at the end of 2003.
"This is no longer a coincidence. We're no longer crying wolf," said John Feal, head of the FealGood Foundation, a support group for ill responders.
Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) said passage of the measure is long overdue.
“Let’s just do it. It’s only going to get worse. These people were literally at war. They were warriors” and are worthy of treatment as such by the government, King said.