One year after Sept. 11 responders' plea for help, White House responds with thank you card

By Michael Mcauliff
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
NYDailyNews.com

Friday, September 11th 2009, 3:15 PM

[See also, at NY Daily News: Lest we Forget: Victims of 9/11" On the anniversary of Sept. 11, a look back at those who were lost.]


Photo NYDaily News: Jennifer McNamara at funeral for her husband
firefighter and Sept. 11 responder John McNamara last month.

WASHINGTON - A group of Sept. 11 responders finally got an answer from the White House to their plea for help: a thank you card.

A year ago, members of the Fealgood Foundation delivered that plea to the future President and other lawmakers in a DVD telling the tale of four ailing heroes.

One of the four, Greg Quibell, had just died of 9/11-linked leukemia. Another, former FDNY firefighter John McNamara, died of cancer last month.

They wanted to show Congress why it must pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, an $8.4 billion bill to help ailing Sept. 11 workers.

But the act has languished. What the responders have gotten are thank you's, not just from the White House, but from members of Congress who also got copies of "Save the Brave."

"One congressman's office sent it back with a letter that said we're sorry, we don't accept gifts," said John Feal, who lost half his foot at Ground Zero.

Feal got the note from the White House saying "Thank you for your kind gift" last week.

Quibell's widow, Theresa, said the off-tone response was "disturbing," but would forgive it if the President delivers. "My God, at least take care of these guys now," she said.

Adminstration officials say Obama remains committed to those who answered the call on Sept. 11, and the days after. He reaffirmed his pledge Friday in the Daily News.

Congressional leaders insist they're committed as well, and the House could finish its bill this month - and vote by November.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) blamed the glacial pace on the GOP. "The previous administration denied there was even a problem," she said.

Rep. Pete King (R-Nassau) called it a bipartisan disgrace. "This is a clear breach of faith by the government," he said. "This is the same as leaving people on the battlefield."

Even if the House passes a bill, the Senate has barely started.

"We have an undeniable moral obligation," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is sponsoring the Senate bill. "I am optimistic that with President Obama in the White House and a Democratic Congress we can ... act."

After eight years, 9/11's heroes are left with little more than thank-you notes - and pain.

"The only gift I've received was the gift of cancer," said former FDNY firefighter Kenny Specht, who battled the disease in his thyroid. "I don't need a letter thanking me for my gift."

New Yorkers want something more tangible.

"My son is dying," said Stephen Grossman after visiting his son, Robert, 41, in the hospital where the ex-cop is losing a battle to cancer. "Whatever passes through Congress will be too late for him. I hope it's not too late for other people."

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