FDNY fire union president calls for reflection as 9/11 anniversary nears
President Gerard Fitzgerald and other union officials held a press conference to help make sure the city lives up to its promise to “Never Forget”
By Shant Shahrigian
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — Ahead of the 18th anniversary of 9/11, the head of the city’s firefighters’ union asked Americans to “Take a moment. Think about it. Say a prayer."
“Just remember what happened that day. Remember how we felt and remember how far we’ve come since,” Uniformed Firefighters Association President Gerard Fitzgerald said Monday.
He and other union officials held a press conference to help make sure the city lives up to its promise to “Never Forget.”
“We still have sick and dying as results of that day,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s still children that are going to wake up without a dad shortly or have woken up without a father or perhaps a mom from all walks of life.
“It’s not just the Fire Department that’s affected by this.”
The FDNY last week added 22 names to its memorial for first responders who died of 9/11-related illnesses. To date, more than 200 firefighters have died of such illnesses. On 9/11, 343 FDNY members died.
“I don’t know if it’s going to increase in speed or slow down,” Fitzgerald said of deaths from 9/11-related illnesses. “I hope to God it slows down. I hope it stops.”
He said three firefighters are currently receiving hospice care for 9/11-related conditions including cancer.
“You see big, fit men reduced to a third of their size,” Fitzgerald remarked. “When you know them and see them go through this process, it’s terrible.”
Earlier Monday, a FDNY station in Far Rockaway held a plaque dedication for John Elges, who died of cancer caused by Ground Zero toxins.
“Unfortunately, I believe the Fire Department has over 30 such events scheduled for this year. It just continues,” said UFA Vice President LeRoy McGinnis.
Gov. Cuomo on Monday signed legislation establishing September 11 Remembrance Day.
The new law “allows for a brief moment of silence in public schools across the state at the beginning of the school day every September 11th to encourage dialogue and education in the classroom, and to ensure future generations have an understanding of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks and their place in history,” according to Cuomo’s office.
Over the summer, Congress voted to provide healthcare and other compensation to 9/11 first responders in perpetuity. It came after a tense battle with several voting against increased funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
“We would rather not hear from those 13,” Fitzgerald said. “But everyone else including the president … I would welcome their tweets because they didn’t forget; so they can write ‘Never Forget’ and ‘Remember 9/11’ as much as they choose to and I would be happy to see it.”
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