ELIZABETH, NJ – Ed Sisk was a battalion chief for the Elizabeth Fire Department on September 11, 2001, and when he and his team of first responders got the call to go to the World Trade, no one hesitated. Today, Sisk is retired and battling sarcoidosis, a disease that causes abnormal collections of inflammatory cells that can form as nodules, a result of his 9/11 experience. He is one of 5,000 first responders from New Jersey afflicted with 9/11 ailments.
Still Sisk says, “I am one of the lucky ones. I’m here with my family.”
Today, November 23, Sisk lent his support at a rally at the Elizabeth Fire Department’s headquarters for the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. Named for a New York City police officer who died of a respiratory disease contracted on the 9/11 site, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act became law in 2010. It designated funding for medical monitoring and treatment and compensation for first responders’ injuries at the World Trade, Pentagon, and the Shanksville crash site. In addition, the legislation funded research into the rare cancers and other 9/1l related diseases researchers are seeing.
Ed Donnelly, Cranford resident, Union Firefighter and President of the New Jersey State Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association (NJFMBA), was on hand to support the continuance of the health care and compensation act.
Donnelly explains, "In the hours and days after the most devastating attack of innocent victims on US soil, members of the NJFMBA, joined first responders from across the US to help in search and recovery efforts. We did it not to claim the title heroes, but because in our business we don't abandon our call of duty, regardless of the dangers we may face. Our ask of our federal government is simple, don't abandon those still suffering from the ill effects of our response 14 years ago."
This federally funded health care and compensation act will expire in 2016, ending the medical treatment for 9/11 responders and survivors from around the country. Those diagnosed with a 9/11 disease after October 2016 will not be eligible for treatment under the act and will not be compensated for their injuries. Research will stop being funded.
Donnelly adds, "The Zadroga Act must be renewed permanently. No sun-setting, no expiration date. The after-effects will be long lasting. This important legislation must be renewed today and last well into the future"
At the rally, federal, state, and local elected officials joined groups of police officers, fire fighters, and EMT professionals to call for passage of the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. The legislation would make funding permanent. New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, Congressmen Donald Paine and Frank Pallone, Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, State Senator Raymond Lesniak, Assemblyman Jamel Holley Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan and PBA President Pat Colligan joined Donnelly in speaking with the crowd.
Said Senator Menendez, “First responders spent day after day on the site. Now it is time for Congress to take a day to protect them. This is a no-brainer. The 9/11 responders stood on line to help. They should not have to stand in line waiting for Congress to respond.
“First responders always have our backs, and we should have theirs.”
For more information, contact http://www.renew911health.org/.
Editor's Note: Fran Sullivan from TAPintoElizabeth contributed to this article and covered the event.