9/11 heroes shouldn’t have to wait for Congress to care

We all know Murphy’s Law, where if anything can happen, it will.

Now, I’m wondering if there should be a Stewart’s Law — one that says, if a comedian starts getting serious, you’d better pay attention.

The naming of the law would be appropriate as Jon Stewart testified Tuesday before a House Judiciary subcommittee regarding the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund. The fund is due to expire in 2020, and already money is running out, with the fund’s administrator, Rupa Bhattacharyya, claiming that the first responders and others who were at Ground Zero for the 2001 terrorist attacks and are dealing with ongoing and chronic health issues can expect to have future claims paid at a fraction of what they’re worth.

That alone indicates our system is breaking down, but there is a new bill in the House, nicknamed the Never Forget the Heroes Act, that would keep that fund going through 2090. It would be terrific news, if it wasn’t proceeding through Congress at the speed of molasses in winter. The bill was introduced in 2018 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, and eight months later, it’s in committee hearings.

I’m not impressed with the progress — or lack thereof — and neither was Stewart. The normally smiling and chuckling man had a look of anger as he testified, and his words were to the point and devoid of humor.

“Your indifference is costing these men and women their most valuable commodity: time,” Stewart said to the committee members. “It’s one thing they’re running out of.”

The Associated Press is reporting that over 40,000 have applied to the $7.4 billion fund, and to date, more than $5 billion has been spent on claims, with 21,000 still needing to be addressed. If you do the math, it’s no wonder that the fund is coming up short.

Is it any wonder that Stewart looks like he wants to shoot laser beams out of his eyes and incinerate lawmakers? After eight months, it should have gone through both legislative chambers and been signed by President Donald Trump so that the victims of a dark day in American history are not left languishing.

First responders risked their lives to dig through the rubble almost immediately after the towers fell in New York City. They didn’t wait for a committee vote or for the city council to take action. They jumped into a dangerous situation to save the lives they could, and it would seem like America should be bending over backwards to provide all the comfort and care for those who are dealing with cancer and other afflictions because of their courageous acts.

People like Luis Alvarez, a retired New York City detective with cancer linked to the Sept. 11 attacks. He was due hours after his testimony to undergo his 69th round of chemotherapy, but he felt compelled to come and provide a face to the situation.

“You made me come because I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11, like me, are valued less than anyone else,” Alvarez said in an NPR story.

What exactly will it take to get the lawmakers off their duffs and help these people? We already have one person dealing with cancer coming and testifying, but do we need people crawling into the hearing on their hands and knees, coughing and wheezing? Where is your heart, Congress?

If it turns out that our representatives are kin to the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz,” then it’s up to us, the people, to have that heart. Write letters, contact your elected officials and tell them to quit the petty bickering and obsessing about impeaching Trump. They need to focus their attention on our heroes. If anyone deserves the warmth of American caring, it’s these people.

“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” Stewart said angrily in his testimony to Congress.

If our elected representatives don’t act quickly to provide care for our heroes, we should all be ashamed.

Lee Pulaski is the city editor for the Shawano Leader. Readers can contact him at lpulaski@newmedia-wi.com.