NEW YORK – As the opening of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum nears, a push is on for a monument honoring rescue workers who may have been sickened by toxins at the World Trade Center.
A coalition of New York officials, labor leaders and survivor advocates announced the effort Friday, saying it would help tell the full story of sacrifice and loss stemming from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer called for a "simple, elegant monument" near ground zero. She said in a statement it would people of the bravery of the responders who helped dig for survivors through smoky, dust-filled rubble.
The federal government says about 30,000 people are enrolled in its multibillion-dollar monitoring and treatment program for people with illnesses related to the attacks.
Responder Jeff Feal, an advocate and coalition member, said the pain and suffering of his ill brethren is at an all-time high.
"To see these men and women deteriorate over the years from what they used to be, it's sad and depressing," Feal said by telephone. "This monument will lift their spirits, raise their chins and let them stick their chests out one last time."
Feal worked in the ground zero rubble for five days until a chunk of steel crushed his foot. He later formed a foundation to assist injured and ill Sept. 11 responders and opened a park on Long Island in 2010 in their honor.
The park includes a memorial wall, and on May 17, Feal said, he will add the names of 93 responders who have died from illnesses potentially contracted from their work at ground zero. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum, in the shadow of the new One World Trade Center, opens four days later.