On Tuesday, Jon Stewart, the comedian and former “Daily Show” host testified before Congress on behalf of the 9/11 first responders who still have not received proper health care benefits from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
Stewart started his comments, accompanied by several first responders, by criticizing Congress for the number of vacant chairs in the hearing. “As I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to,” he said. “Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders. And in front of me, a nearly empty Congress.
He observed that several of the first responders are themselves ill— but still made the trip to Washington to fight for the fund. “Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one. Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country, and it is a stain on this institution.”
Luis Alvarez, a retired NYPD detective and 9/11 respondent who also testified before Congress, was among the first responders with Stewart. Alvarez said that he was one day away from his 69th round of chemotherapy. “I should not be here with you, but you made me come,” he said. “I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11, like me, are valued less than anyone else because when they get sick, they die. I have been lucky enough to have 68 rounds of chemo—yeah, you heard me right, 68 rounds. Many others haven’t had the opportunities to have five. And some have had none. Their families would love to have time with them.”
According to CNN, Jon Stewart then took the witness seat and made an impassioned declaration on behalf of the sick and dying first responders. He made it a point to remind the members of Congress that it took only five seconds fort he first responders to reach the site of the disaster on 9/11.
“These men and women, and their response to it, is what brought our country back,” Jon said. “It’s what gave a reeling nation a solid foundation to stand back upon, to remind us of why this country is great, of why this country is worth fighting for, and you are ignoring them.”
Stewart’s passionate pleas for compassion now touch people’s hearts all over the globe. It’s about caring for other people— especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice.