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Dec. 11, 2019

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In Our View: Congress Must Never Forget

The Columbian
Published: September 11, 2015, 6:01am

The mantra, one that has been sacrosanct for 14 years now, is simple: “Never forget.”

No, we shall never forget the victims, the nearly 3,000 who perished in terrorist attacks upon this country 14 years ago today. We shall never forget the survivors, those from all corners of the country who continue to bear the scars of Sept. 11, 2001. And we shall not forget the resolve, the sense of national unity and shared purpose that was forged, however fleeting it might have been.

So today, as the nation pauses to recall the horrific events of 9/11, we call upon members of Congress to demonstrate that they, too, will never forget a day that seems so long ago, yet remains so fresh in the memory.

The first issue involves the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The legislation, named for a New York City Police officer who died of a respiratory illness in 2006 that was attributed to his exposure to toxic chemicals at the World Trade Center site, contains two parts: The 9/11 World Trade Center Health Program, and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. It became law in early 2011 and had a five-year window.

Congress should renew the fund, and we frequently are presented with reminders of why. Three weeks ago, for example, Marcy Borders died at the age of 42 from stomach cancer. Borders was a bank clerk in the World Trade Center, and she became known as “The Dust Lady” when a picture of her, covered in fallout from the wreckage, received worldwide circulation.

There is no certainty that Zadroga or Borders died as a result of their exposure related to 9/11, but there is little doubt that those who were there have experienced high rates of cancer and other illnesses.

According to Newsday, more than 33,000 people have illnesses or injuries that have been connected to the Sept. 11 attacks, and more than 70,000 are being monitored for possible symptoms. Those include residents from all 50 states and all but six congressional districts.

While Congress should provide for those still living with the aftermath of 9/11, it also should urge transparency in examining the events of the day. Those who forget history, it is said, are destined to repeat it; the fate could be even worse for those who ignore that history.

In December 2002, a congressional panel concluded its inquiry into the attacks, eventually producing an 838-page report. But 14 years later, a 28-page portion of that report remains classified. Former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., chairman of the investigation, has said, “There is compelling evidence in the 28 pages that one or more foreign governments was involved in assisting some of the hijackers in their preparation for 9/11.”

The American public has a right — and a need — to know what is in those pages, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has introduced the Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Victims and Survivors Act in an effort to declassify the information. The bill has been referred to a Senate committee.

Nearly a decade-and-a-half since 9/11, what transpired that day continues to inform U.S. policy, both foreign and domestic. It also continues to influence the American psyche while reminding us simultaneously of our nation’s strengths and its vulnerabilities.

As another anniversary arrives, the American public once again will live up to its vow to never forget; Congress should do the same.

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