A bittersweet victory

The decision to add 50 kinds of cancer to the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was overdue, but welcomed.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health will add more categories of cancer to the list of covered conditions for World Trade Center Health Program. This means that more Ground Zero workers suffering from debilitating ailments stemming from exposure to toxins will be able to get the attention and care they need, thanks to leaders such as Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer.

The battle for fair health treatment for the men and women who responded to the Sept. 11 attacks that devastated our city has been long and difficult.

Some congress members stalled and blocked the Zadroga Act and even called it an entitlement program. Before his fall from grace, former Congressman Anthony Weiner mounted an unforgettable defense of the Act.

But this wasn’t the only challenge to overcome.

In the days and months following the attacks, no one asked workers for their legal status. Yet, undocumented persons who responded and cleaned up at Ground Zero were at risk of being excluded from the Act.

Congressman Jose Serrano, Congress woman Nydia Velazquez and others fought successfully for the inclusion and access they deserved.

As much as this latest measure is a victory, it also points to a disgraceful contradiction that we must reflect on as nation: We can’t laud our heroes and rescuers one day, then the next day fight against caring for them.

Today, we mourn the thousands of loved ones lost. They will never be forgotten. But we must also remember –and always protect-those who struggle to keep living.