Wednesday, July 11, 2007 6:04 PM

Wield Your Mighty Pen for Us, Mr. President

By 9/11 first responder John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation

NEW YORK -- A pen in my hands could make some difference in the lives around me, and I work through the FealGood Foundation to make sure the documents I sign relieve some of the suffering of my fellow 9/11 responders. If I could, I would use my pen as you used yours last week. I would save my buddies.

In commuting the prison sentence of your friend Scooter, you said you believed the sentence imposed was too severe. Boy, can I relate.

When I look at the life sentences imposed on 9/11 responders suffering with acute illness, financial and emotional ruin and nearly six long years of neglect by their city, state and federal government leaders, I fill with rage and frustration. You've seen some of us in 'SiCKO,' so I know you are aware of our plight. My pen can only relieve tiny bits of their suffering. Yours could lift much more.

In an instant, Mr. President, you could use your mighty pen to affirm the faith you put in all of us in the hours, days, weeks and months after 9/11 to be what you called heroes and send a message to the world that Americans stand together in the face of threat.

With one stroke, you could issue and sign an executive order that would open clinic and hospital doors to 9/11 responders who are ill and without life-saving medical care.

Do you understand the betrayal of trust and confidence we feel? Just as Scooter took the hit for others in your circle of friends, my brothers and sisters took the dust and debris, the shock and the danger, the toxins and the smoke for everyone in America as we worked at ground zero so long ago.

We need you to feel for us – the folks you called out as heroes – the same passion and compassion that made you reach for your pen for Scooter. We need your help and we need it now. We have served a long sentence already. We have been punished for our actions on 9/11. We do not understand exactly what the crimes were in rushing in to help, nor do we understand how you can turn your back on us still. We were there with you. We believed what you told us. We trusted you with our lives.

So, Mr. President, won’t you please lift that pen again as you have done for Scooter Libby? The order could be simple, as a start:
“All 9/11 responders from this day forward shall be entitled to the care they need. A violation of this order will not be tolerated. These men and women are to be treated in every way as heroes, not unlike U.S. soldiers on the battlefield.” -- Signed...

A signature today would save lives. It would save dignity. It might even tell the world that you are a man of your word, and that a contract made with your nation’s heroes is not to be broken. Please use your pen today. Many lives depend on it.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but your signature on this action may well be worth more than a thousand lives. Stand aside, Scooter, your president has some more commutations to issue. And the 9/11 responders are finally first in line.

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