The 200th firefighter died this week from illness related to responding to the scene of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, New York’s fire department announced.
Richard Driscoll, 73, of Monroe, N.Y., passed away Wednesday. The Vietnam veteran served FDNY for 32 years, retiring in 2002 from Engine 91 in East Harlem. He was honored for bravery five times during his career.
Driscoll responded to the World Trade Center on 9/11, and “worked tirelessly in the rescue and recovery efforts that followed,” FDNY said.
Driscoll was preceded in death by Kevin Nolan, 58, of Rye, N.Y., who joined FDNY in 1989 and retired in 2007. Nolan’s last assignment was Engine Company 79 in the Bronx; his death from 9/11-related illness was announced Tuesday.
“It is almost incomprehensible that after losing 343 members on September 11, we have now had 200 more FDNY members die due to World Trade Center illness,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “These heroes gave their lives bravely fighting to rescue and recover others. We will never forget them.”
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “Rest in peace, firefighters Richard Driscoll and Kevin Nolan. 200 members of the FDNY have now succumbed to WTC-related illness. They didn’t hesitate to run into danger. They stayed until the work was done. The Senate MUST fully fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.”
The House of Representatives voted 402-12 last week to pass the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act, sending it to the upper chamber. The bill extends the fund, which is set to expire next year, through 2090.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blocked an attempt Wednesday by Senate Democrats today to move forward the reauthorization, arguing that the deficit is too large and the program needs to be paid for. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) placed a procedural hold on the bill, preventing it from coming to the floor for a vote; he struck a deal with leaders Thursday to allow a vote on his amendment that would only fund it for the next 10 years.
“The men and women who responded to the horrific events of September 11, 2001, are among the great heroes of American history,” Lee said in a statement. “Since 2011, the 9/11 Victims Fund has always had finite authorizations, and by all accounts it has an excellent record avoiding waste and abuse. These two things are not coincidental. They go together.”
Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who is a fierce advocate for 9/11 first responders, called the senators holding up the bill “absolutely outrageous” and said the pair “lack humanity.”
“At some point, we have to stand up for the people who have always stood up for us, and at this moment in time maybe cannot stand up for themselves due to their illnesses and their injuries,” Stewart told Fox News on Wednesday. “And what Rand Paul did today on the floor of the Senate was outrageous.”
Paul fired back at Stewart on Fox Thursday, calling Stewart’s 9/11 activism “all about ‘me-me-me Jon Stewart, look at me, I’m on TV.’”
“I know Jon Stewart, and Jon Stewart is sometimes funny and sometimes informed,” Paul said. “In this case, he’s neither funny nor informed.”
9/11 first responder and activist John Feal told CNN on Thursday, “We’re not begging. We’re demanding. We don’t beg for anything anymore.”
“They work for us,” he added of the senators. “They should be begging for forgiveness for being a–holes for the past 15 years.”