FDNY union leaders are asking for more federal funding for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act that deals with medical benefits. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Firefighters worry that after 21 years, people are forgetting the impacts of 9/11, and that public officials will not provide future funding for those still suffering cancers and other illnesses linked to the terror attacks, firefighter union officials said Friday.

Sunday marks the 21st anniversary of the day terrorists attacked this country and killed some 3,000 people, including 343 FDNY firefighters. Since then, the long-term effects of breathing toxic dust from the collapsed World Trade Centers has taken the lives of more than 290 firefighters. Within a year or so, that figure will eclipse the number killed on that day, the officials said.

"The effects of 9/11 are still ongoing for us. It never seems to end," said Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association and a responder on the day of the attacks.

Lt. James McCarthy, president of the FDNY-Uniformed Fire Officers Association, added, "The longer we get away from (9/11), people in government and around the country seem to forget. We need to remind the public that this was an attack against our country, not just New York."

The firefighter representatives gathered across from the site of the attacks on World Trade Centers in lower Manhattan, as tourist groups visited the twin waterfall pools surrounded by a low wall that lists the names of the victims of the attacks.

Money was set aside for the thousands of injured people, survivors and those affected by the dust, but the firefighter representatives said they expected a budget shortfall in the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act funding in 2025. They said they worried that would prompt cutbacks in medical treatment and prescription drug coverage for the sick, as well as those yet to be diagnosed with 9/11-related conditions.

On a personal note, Ansbro noted that both he and his father, former NYPD Transit Bureau Chief Michael Ansbro, responded to 9/11. His father has since developed cancer, said Ansbro, adding that he himself has "minor illnesses" related to that time.

The union officials urged Congress to pass a bill that would provide money for the future medical needs, which they estimated to be $3 billion to $4 billion. They noted that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) supports that effort.

Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro said in a statement Friday: “Sen. Schumer has long championed securing the funds needed to provide quality health care for our 9-11 first responders, many of whom got sick years after their service. He is working side by side with first responder unions, building trades, and other worker advocates to secure the money needed to fully fund the program for all future participants and will look to pass it at the earliest opportunity.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also supports such legislation.

"We must come together to ensure that ‘Never Forget 9/11’ is not an empty promise," she said in a prepared statement. " . . . Without this funding, more than 118,000 responders and survivors currently enrolled in the program could see their access to treatment affected, and those seeking treatment in the future may not be able to receive it at all."

Also on Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed five pieces of legislation to help remove barriers and delays to the Victim Compensation Fund and Workers' compensation claims for 9/11 victims, their survivors and their families.

"New Yorkers will never forget the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001 — and we will never forget the bravery and sacrifice of the civilians and first responders who lives were forever changed," Hochul said.

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