What a way to honour the
Good Samaritans of 9/11

Trump administration siphons off millions from the 9/11 fund set up to benefit injured responders

By Byron Toben

This weekend saw the 19th anniversary of the Al-Qaida attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York. Twenty-two Canadians were included among the victims there.

first responders 9/11 - WestmountMag.ca

First responders at World Trade Center during 9/11 – Image: slagheap via StockPholio.net

On the first anniversary of those horrific suicide planes, I arranged a poem and music tribute to those 22 Canadians who were among the 3,000 who perished that day. More on that below, but first some disturbing recent news relating to the aftermath of that tragic day.

In addition to the occupants working inside the World Trade Center towers, many firemen, first responders and medics were seriously injured. Injuries were often long term, including rare forms of cancer. Accordingly, a fund was set up in 2010, earmarked to pay for supplement health treatment for those Good Samaritan victims.

According to an exclusive New York Daily News article by Michael McAuliffe, the U.S. Treasury Department has been siphoning off money from that fund for four years now, without notice or explanation. Dr. David Prezant, who administers the fund locally, states that the fire department “fronts” the money and then is reimbursed by Treasury. However, Treasury’s shortfall began in 2016 with $500,000 and continued in 2017 with $500,000, in 2018 with $630,000, and in 2019 with $1,447,000.

All this shortfall was done secretly without notice or explanation despite frequent requests for such. The problem is now accentuated by costs and delays from the COVID-19 crisis.

Canine rescue team at World Trade Center 9/11 - WestmuntMag.ca

Canine rescue team at World Trade Center during 9/11 – Image: Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo / Public domain

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has demanded that these funds be returned “forthwith”. At the time of drafting this article, I have heard of no response. Vice President Mike Pence assured Senator Schumer that he would look into the matter.

first responder 9/11 - WestmountMag.ca

First responder at World Trade Center during 9/11 – Image: Jim Watson / Public domain

As mentioned above I was pleased to organize an event honouring the Canadian victims of the 9/11 attacks upon its first anniversary in 2002. It was held at the then Erskine and American Church (now part of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts). As I recall, we had poetry readings of Yeats (Things Fall Apart), WH Auden and Toni Morrison, recited by Laura Mitchell, Harry Hill and myself, and individual singers Vivienne Deane, Bronna Levy, Marie-Claude Lamoureux and Laura Teasdale, accompanied by guitarist Paul Lifschitz and pianist Felix Stussi.

Many of the Montreal Lyric Theatre Singers marched in as a choir, while Millicent Broderick and Barry O’Connell read off the names of the victims.

Feature image: 9/11 first responders, courtesy of The U.S. National Archives via StockPholio.net

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Read more articles from Byron Toben

Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.


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