The widow of a New York firefighter, who recently died of cancer he believed was caused from exposures to toxins at Ground Zero, urged Congress Wednesday to bring a 9/11 health bill to a vote.
"The federal government should be taking care of these people," said Jennifer McNamara, whose husband, John, died Sunday. "Even on his deathbed, he made us promise that we would make sure that other people were taken care of."
John McNamara, 44, of Blue Point, was a 10-year veteran and long fought for health benefits for fellow rescue workers.
McNamara worked about 500 hours at Ground Zero after the 2001 attacks. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006. He believed his exposure to toxins at Ground Zero caused his illness.
His wife joined Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, at Bishop's Coram office Wednesday. "Jennifer, quite selflessly, wants to use the tragic and untimely death as an opportunity to raise consciousness, raise awareness for this bill," Bishop said.
McNamara spent the last few years of his life joining Feal, a first-responder advocate, to promote the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act legislation proposed in Congress.
The bill, which would provide testing and medical treatment to thousands sickened with 9/11-related illnesses, was named for a New York police officer who died of lung and brain damage after working at the World Trade Center site. Bill advocates want the federal government to cover 9/11-related health costs to avoid having those sickened to be burdened by health care bills. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) introduced the bill in February. Since then, it has been working its way through legislative committees and has yet to make it to the House for a vote.
"My husband would think that it's shameful, absolutely shameful" that legislators are dragging their feet, McNamara said. She then turned to the final moments she shared with her husband at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center.
She said he was a fighter to the end. "I told him that he needed to go and [if] he was tired of fighting, he could stop," she said. "He kept shaking his head 'no.' He was never gonna stop."
A short while later, Jennifer McNamara watched the heart monitor display a flat line.
In addition to his wife, McNamara is survived by his son, Jack, 2. His funeral is planned for 10 a.m. Friday at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan.