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Sierra Club Chronicles | 9/11 Forgotten Heroes | Season 1 Episode 1 (2006) 28 min.

Synopsis

John Feal, Marvin Bethea, Jonathan Sferazo and Mike McCormack want justice. Before September 11, 2001, Feal was a jock and robust construction supervisor, Bethea a life-saving paramedic, McCormack was a decorated emergency medic, and Sferazo was proud steelworker. At ground zero all four of these New Yorkers gave everything they had to the search and rescue effort.

What they were told about the safety conditions at the site and what was the truth are now emerging as two very different tales. The federal government ignored its long-body of knowledge about incineration and demolition. It also ignored the results of independent studies that contradicted its findings. Were they afraid of mass hysteria? Did they think the rescue effort would not continue if they were honest with New Yorkers? "I have no idea" says Feal. "All I know is that they didn't tell us what was really in the air down there, and now me and my friends are paying the price for their lies."

Soon after 9/11 Feal and his friends started experiencing serious respiratory problems, a condition they now call "The World Trade Center Cough." Feal spent two months in the hospital last year. Sferazo can't climb a flight of stairs without doubling over in pain. Bethea suffers from permanent sinusitis as well as post traumatic stress and asthma. Hundreds of rescue workers are sick and that number is expected to rise sharply over the next several years. Because of an arbitrary technicality in the law Feal, Sferazo, Bethea, McCormack and many more search and rescue workers no longer qualify for help from the 9/11 relief fund.

Angry and now disabled John Feal says, "They called us "'Heroes'"!? But where are our heroes? We are the ones that need the help now. Where is it?"

We travel with Feal, Sferazo, Bethea and McCormack as they have an important step towards holding their government accountable. They are banding together to lobby congress - traveling via caravan down to Washington DC where Congress is considering an amendment to a bill, the Walsh Amendment, that will set aside $125 million of unspent 911 money to help New York State residence with the current and future 911-related health expenses. If this amendment doesn't pass, Congress will reclaim this unspent money and John Feal and his friends will be left out in the cold again.

In December 2005, $125 million was restored through a defense Appropriation bill. While it will help cover medical screening and treatment, the money will only meet a fraction of the first responders' needs. Meanwhile, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congressman Jerrold Nadler have called for an investigation of the EPA's failure to carry out proper testing and cleanup of 9/11 pollution.