Father of fallen 9/11 first responder James Zadroga urges lawmakers to extend bill that compensates Ground Zero workers

Rich Schapiro New York Daily News

“I want to speak to you personally and let you know what it’s like to watch a person die over a five-year period with no support,” Joe Zadroga, 68, said of his son James, who died from a respiratory illness [pulmonary fibrosis] he developed while working at Ground Zero.

The father of James Zadroga delivered a stern message Thursday to any Washington politicians unwilling to extend the landmark bill named after his fallen 9/11 first-responder son.

With more than two dozen ailing cops and firefighters looking on, Joe Zadroga said he will gladly describe to any D.C. legislators what it’s like to “watch your son die over a five-year period for not having the proper care.”

“I want to speak to you personally and let you know what it’s like to watch a person die over a five-year period with no support,” Zadroga, 68, thundered at a news conference in the shadow of One World Trade Center.

“And that’s what’s going to happen if this bill is not passed.”

The medical treatment and compensation offered to sickly Ground Zero workers through the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act will dry up completely by October 2016 if lawmakers don’t reauthorize the bill.

More than 33,000 September 11 first responders have developed illnesses — including respiratory problems and cancer — in the years after the terror attacks.

“When everyone first responded, no one asked the question, ‘Am I going to get sick or what’s going to happen?” said FDNY Deputy Chief Thomas Riley, 58, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma last December.

“If you walk away from us now, what’s going to happen the next one?”

Former Con Edison employee Nicholas Poliseno spent a year near Ground Zero working to restore power.

The 37-year-old father of two now suffers from sarcoidosis, an auto-immune disorder, and a host of other illnesses.

“My daughters know if this bill doesn’t pass, Daddy is going to pass away within a year,” said Poliseno, who is now the mayor of Spotswood, N.J.  “The hospitalization costs alone are $1.1 million.”

The bill was signed into law in 2010 — four years after the death of Zadroga, a 34-year-old NYPD cop who suffered respiratory failure after spending hundreds of hours at Ground Zero.

Several New York and New Jersey pols — including Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) — echoed the sickly workers in urging Congress to extend the law.

“We shouldn’t even have to be here today,” King said.

“Those who put their lives on the line. Those who suffer these terrible illnesses…There’s no doubt at all they should get the healthcare, they should get the monitoring they absolutely deserve.”

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