Surviving firefighter Dan Potter's fire helmet, which he used at...

Surviving firefighter Dan Potter's fire helmet, which he used at Ground Zero on September 11, is viewed during a tour the National September 11 Memorial Museum on May 14, 2014 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images/Spencer Platt

This is what we mean when we say “never forget.”

This year will mark the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America.

Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives that day. The World Trade Center buildings were destroyed. The Pentagon was severely damaged.

America launched a global war against terror. The attack changed the way that we travel forever.

In so many ways, the impact of 9/11 continues.

But in no way is that impact felt more keenly than by the first responders who continue to fall victim to cancers and other diseases due the rescue, recovery and cleanup work they did at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the attack.

In addition to the victims murdered on 9/11 itself, these are the people that America can never forget.

But recently we were told that the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund would cut awards to new claimants because the fund is running low on money and claims are increasing.

Fund administrator Rupa Bhattacharyya rightly admitted that this was unfair. After all, are you any less a victim of 9/11 because your cancer took longer to present itself?

Lawmakers have vowed to fix the problem, and to ensure that all claimants, present and future, are compensated in full.

They must.

In addition to giving us a heightened appreciation of all that our country stands for, 9/11 gave us a renewed veneration for the police officers, firefighters, emergency medical workers and other first responders who keep us safe every day.

They patrol the streets. They go after the bad guys and girls. They run into burning buildings. They rush over when a loved one has an accident or a medical emergency. They protect and serve.

And on 9/11 and during the days, weeks and months afterward, they went to Ground Zero. They dug through the rubble in a mostly vain attempt to find survivors. They recovered what bodies there were, so family members could have the solace of a proper burial.

And when recovery efforts were done, these first responders remained in the smoky, smoldering ruins, cleaning up the site so that it could quickly be built upon again. So New York and America could get back to business as soon as possible. So we could return to “normal,” even though normal would never be the same again.

Because that was the mission, remember? We had to show Osama bin Laden and the rest of his murderous thugs that while they’d hurt us, they hadn’t destroyed us. The terrorists didn’t win, on that day or any other.

And it wasn’t the military that we leaned on to deliver that message. It was the NYPD. And FDNY. And EMS. And other law enforcement agencies and emergency responders. City workers. And everyday people. Volunteers.

All of them rushed to what was in reality the bloodies battlefield in American history, to show that our flag was still there.

They were told it was safe to breathe the air. Now we know that it wasn’t so safe after all. And now they are sick.

How can we ever forget? How can we ever turn our backs on them? How can we ever reduce their service and sacrifice to a question of money?

They were there when we needed them. They need us now. They’ll need us in the future. Some of them have already given their lives. Others have given their health.

All they’re asking from us is money. How can we ever say no?

Never forget.

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