New York Gov. Pataki to Help Sick Ground Zero Workers

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," August 14, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" just gave you a hint of the heroes of 9/11, the guys who went into those buildings, as most were running out of those buildings.

At least the ones Stone profiled got their benefits and proper recognition. Scores of other, perhaps hundreds, if not thousands, did not — emergency workers, relief workers, rescue personnel, all descending on a scene that left them sick and, later, without so much as a dime to help them get better.

We were the very first show to put the national spotlight on these workers. We had called them then. We call them now the forgotten heroes.


BONNIE GIEBFRIED, SEPTEMBER 11 EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIAN RESPONDER: It's very discouraging. Our government basically has left us in the ruble of 9/11.

VINNY FORRAS, VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER: I'm not bitter. I just feel that the government owes these heroic responders help. And we're — we're not asking for handouts. We're asking for help for our families.


CAVUTO: Today, the government responds: a move by New York Governor George Pataki to help all of those who risked all to help others.

He joins us now from Ithaca, New York.

Governor, what does this involve?

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI, R-N.Y.: Well, Neil, first of all, thank you for profiling the tragedy that some of the heroes of September 11 faced. And, let me assure you, they were not forgotten. And, today, we have taken the appropriate action to protect them.

I was down at ground zero this morning, signing legislation. And whenever I go there, I can't help but think of the way it was on September 11. You could see the air. You could taste the air. You could smell the air.

And it was also dangerous. And, yet, despite that danger, thousands of firefighters, EMTs, police officers, construction workers, rushed to the scene, and stayed there for weeks and months, helping us recover.

And now it's our turn. You know, it is a unique event. And we have laws that say, for example, if you file a compensation claim, it can only be two years from when the incident occurred. We're making special exceptions for those heroes who responded on September 11.

We're going to treat any illness they come down with as an occupational disease, which means, first, that they don't have a limit when they have to file a claim. It's ultimately when that disease happens, if it happens.

And then, if, in fact, from that disease, they are disabled or, tragically, die, we will provide disability benefits and also death benefits to their families.

It's a multi-point plan to help those heroes, to help their families, and also to help with their health needs right now, as well.

CAVUTO: You know, sir, Mayor Bloomberg was not part of this, because he said, at the time, we really couldn't make a connection between what they did, the volunteers at the site, and what happened. You say there is unequivocal proof.

PATAKI: Well, I think we can clearly show that many of these cases are directly a result from their heroism of staying on the pile and breathing this air for months.

CAVUTO: So, what do you think of him being...


CAVUTO: What do you think of him being on the fence, Governor?

PATAKI: Well, the mayor and I usually agree. On this one, we disagree.

I think you — what the bills do is create a presumption that the illness, when it's a unique illness — I will give you an example.

Detective Zadroga, 34 years old, strapping health, over 400 hours at ground zero after the attacks, gets this weird lung disease and dies, leaving a 4-year-old kid behind. This, in all likelihood — and, in fact, the medical experts have said — is a result of his breathing in toxic fumes after the attacks. We should help his family. And now we're going to help his family.

We know that there is always the need to protect from those who might try to exploit our compassion. And we think we have struck that balance.

CAVUTO: All right, but it's going to be an expensive balance, Governor. The people who were opposed to this in the past said, even if you could prove that a lot these cases had that connection — and, certainly, the people we checked with who were on this show — there — there was a clear connection — but that it's going to be expensive, to the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Are you prepared for that?

PATAKI: Well, sure. First of all, we don't think those cost estimates are accurate. The projections...

CAVUTO: Well, what is? What is?

PATAKI: ... for — our best analysis is that it could be anywhere from $5 million to $10 million a year. It might be beyond that, depending on the nature of the illnesses and how many people come down with them.

But you can't put a price tag on what those heroes did after September 11. Where would we be, in New York and in America today, if people said, "I'm not going down there"?

We would still have, instead of a resounding success with the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan, a giant crater in what — what is the financial capital today of the world.

So, we owe them not just the — the material support, but also our emotional help, because they really got us through, and inspired us, after these horrible attacks occurred.

CAVUTO: Governor George Pataki, thank you very, very much.

PATAKI: Thank you, Neil.

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