9/11 first responders urge Congress to make Victim Compensation Fund permanent

Posted: Updated:
HARTFORD -

Hundreds of Connecticut first responders rushed to New York City on 9/11 to help, and on Monday they urged Congress to make the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund permanent.

West Haven sent about 30 firefighters to Ground Zero. Some of them are still suffering the health effects and are demanding to protect their benefits.

The 9/11 responders say they're tired of worrying and wondering if the money will be there for them if they get sick.

West Haven Fire Department Chief James O'Brien says he is haunted by what he saw two decades ago when he was working in "the pile" and searching for survivors.

"We weren't well-equipped. We weren't provided with enough breathing apparatus or filter masks or anything like that.  So we just worked with what we had at the end," he says.

O'Brien says they really didn’t think about themselves or the hazard they were facing while they were there - they were just determined to help people.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who joined the firefighters, urged Senate Republicans to hold an immediate vote on the topic before they head home for their summer recess on Aug. 2.

"To my colleague Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the United States Senate, put this bill on the floor of the Senate for a vote. Give it a vote," said Blumenthal.

More than 300 emergency responders in Connecticut have already filed claims with the Victim Compensation Fund, but only about half of them have actually been approved.

The 9/11 Compensation Fund passed the House 402-12. Senate Republicans are promising a vote "soon," but they haven't committed to a timeline.

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