With more than 60 Sept. 11, 2001, responders looking on, President Donald Trump on Monday signed into law the hard-fought-for bill that will extend funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for another seven decades.
Trump, 73, signed the “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act” bill in the White House’s Rose Garden with family members of all three men on hand.
The act provides money for the VCF, which helps financially support 9/11 responders, survivors and their families, through 2092 — a necessity considering many have developed various diseases in the years since due to their exposure to carcinogens such as jet fuel, mercury and asbestos as well as other debris and toxins.
The fund had previously said it was running out of money more quickly than planned, given escalating claims from 9/11 victims.
“Today, we come together as one nation to support our September 11th heroes, to care for their families and to renew our eternal vow: Never, ever forget,” Trump told the crowd.
In his prepared remarks, the president praised the “selfless patriots” of the New York City fire and police departments, saying he “grew up with them” and could vouch that they were “great people.”
“Many of those affected were firefighters, police officers and other first responders,” he said, adding that he was “down there also” during the terror attacks but was not considering himself a first responder. (The president has a history of bringing up the 9/11 attacks. He notoriously once said that one of his buildings became the city’s tallest after the World Trade Center towers collapsed.)
At the White House on Monday, Trump encouraged the more than 60 first responders in attendance to stand for a round of applause and later welcomed them to the stage as he officially signed the bill, joking that if the stage couldn’t hold them all, at least they wouldn’t fall very far.
“We have an obligation, and it’s a sacred obligation, to the families and first responders of 9/11,” he said.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and the N.Y.C. mayor at the time of the attacks, was in attendance and received a shout-out from the president, who called him the city’s “greatest mayor, in my opinion.”
“Before I go further, this morning we express our deepest sadness and sorrow for the families who lost a precious loved one in the horrific shooting last night in Gilroy, California,” he said, calling the gunman a “wicked murderer.”
Stewart gave a fiery speech in June before the House Judiciary Committee that slammed Congress for “ignoring” first responders.
He spoke alongside Luis Alvarez, a former NYPD detective who died just weeks later of 9/11-related cancer. The House soon passed the bill, sending it to the Senate.
Earlier this month, Alvarez’s name was added to the bill alongside fellow responders Zadroga and Pfeifer.
Estimates put the number of 9/11 first responders at 90,000, according to the New York Daily News. There were also an additional 400,000 survivors who lived and worked near the World Trade Center and are therefore at risk.
Some 40,000 of the 76,000 Sept. 11 responders registered with the World Trade Center Health Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Manhattan have health conditions, including 10,000 who have developed various cancers associated with exposure to the toxins at the site, according to Dr. Michael Crane, its medical director.