Glen Klein retired early as an officer with the New York Police Department's emergency service unit. After working for nine months at Ground Zero, Klein says, he contracted asthma and a bacterial disease in his intestines because of toxins that invaded his body at the World Trade Center.
On Friday, Klein was among supporters of the Zadroga 9/11 health bill at a rally at the site, urging Republicans to understand what he and other first responders experienced.
"I know hundreds who have fallen ill, numerous people have died," Klein, 52, of Centereach, said. "Many of my friends have died."
Klein agreed with another supporter of the bill, activist John Feal, 44, of Nesconset, who said Republicans should "man up to their patriotism."
The two joined about 100 proponents of the measure in frigid weather outside 7 World Trade Center. The rally was organized by Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, both Manhattan Democrats, after 41 GOP senators Wednesday voted to prevent the bill from being brought to the Senate floor.
Republicans said they would block Zadroga and all other bills until Congress approves extension of the Bush-era tax cuts on incomes over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples and a government spending bill.
Klein, who said he once was taking 15 pills daily for his illnesses, was asked why he believed Senate Republicans had so far failed to support the proposed legislation, which would provide 10 years of health care for responders and survivors ailing from the toxic 9/11 debris and air at a cost of $7.4 billion.
Klein suggested that for them, the aftermath was more of a television show than a real-life tragedy. "They saw it on TV," said Klein, now down to taking six pills a day. "They were nice and warm and cozy on their couches . . . They weren't exposed to the sounds, the smells and the tastes that we were.
"We were down there day and night, for nine months, pulling out body parts and cutting steel beams."
Maloney said the men and women who worked at the site "were there for us and we have to continue to fight for our heroes."
Nadler called the GOP response "a punch in the face" and "disgusting," adding, "It's morally wrong and goes against the values of our country."