First Responders In DC To Fight For 9/11 Victims Fund

First responders Washington
Photo credit WCBS 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) A group of 20 9/11 first responders lobbied in Congress Wednesday to drum up support for more funds as the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund runs dry.

The group spent Tuesday night preparing and then walked the halls of Congress for hours Wednesday morning trying to sell the bill. 

Retired city cop Matthew McCauley consulted with a fellow responder for a meeting with a Senate staffer.

"I think the meetings were positive," he said. "I think we're going to get this done eventually." 

John Feal is leading the efforts.

"We need to get more senators on board on that and start catching up to the House," he said.

Feal says they monitor social media posts, especially on 9/11.

"I remember Congress and the Senate has something political or patriotic or their rhetoric. 'Never forget.' 'We honor those we continue to lose.' And we just throw that in their face when we go into the meetings," he added.

With 9/11-related cancers skyrocketing, Feal says the Victims Compensation Fund protects families from financial ruin.

Michael O'Connell is a 43-year-old retired fire lieutenant who has an autoimmune disease.

“I’m down here fighting knowing that there’s many people in my situation who have young children at home. Men who have died who have a stay-at-home mom who’s trying to provide for these children,” O'Connell said.

Another responder, Rob Serra, had his first day with the FDNY on 9/11.

He now has multiple illnesses and is forced to walk with a cane. He has three kids, 9 and under, and he's limited in what we can do with them.

"I can't teach them how to throw a baseball, I can't play hockey with them, I can't teach them how to ride a bike, but I can teach them how to stand up for themselves and their friends," he said. 

Serra says he's in Washington to stand up for those who can't.

Last month, lawmakers introduced a bill called called the Never Forget the Heroes Act to replenish the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund.

Nearly $5 billion in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.3 billion fund. Supporters are seeking another $5 billion. Without the money, awards will be slashed dramatically.