|Forgotten heroes of 9/11 are dying|
In that spirit, it's important to keep in mind that people from all over the country came to the aid of New York City. Every state in the country, including Puerto Rico, sent responders.
The Police Aid Foundation has created a team of active and retired officers who have come together to aid officers and their families who courageously performed their duties are now suffering and dying with 9/11 related illness.
One of our projects has been creating a poster tribute of the officers who have passed since September 11, 2001, whether from exposure to toxins at Ground Zero, or while digging through debris for remains at Staten Island's Fresh Kills landfill.
Of the forty-five officers who are honored on our informational poster, twelve died in the past twelve months.
This past year, the 9/11 Police Aid Foundation embarked on fund-raising trips across the country; bringing sick police officers to events in several states to spread the word of September 11th and the crushing wave of senseless deaths, which are still occurring. We visited Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee, among others. Along the way we met many generous and caring people.
New York does not suffer alone. Every state in the Union and even Puerto Rico sent responders.
Now, nine years later, every state now bears the same burden of having responders suffer with these debilitating, life-destroying illnesses, many of which are terminal.
I have witnessed countless tragedies, but none worse than the treatment of our officers in the City of New York.
These good cops have been made to jump through incomprehensible logistical hoops, and climb bureaucratic hurdles higher than those in the nine month long NYPD Police Academy. Just applying for a three-quarters disability benefit is difficult for officers who are also dealing with their illnesses.
I became disabled as a result of my time spent at Ground Zero and was one of the lucky few to actually be retired by the NYPD on a World Trade Center Disability Pension back in January of 2007.
Even though I am suffering with a debilitating illness, I could not simply collect my pension once I discovered how many others were suffering. These people also deserve pensions and they being denied.
In the summer of 2007, we established the 9/11 Police Aid Foundation. We wrote a constitution and completed reams of IRS paperwork. Finally the IRS granted us not-for-profit 501 c(3) status in April of 2008.
From the beginning, with generous support of the New York State Fraternal Order of Police, we have assisted hundreds of police officers and their families throughout the United States.
The ultimate goal of the Police Aid Foundation is to create a team, consisting of active and retired officers, who will come together and respond to the aid of fellow officers and their families during times of hardship similar to the attacks of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina.
But we cannot do this alone. We need volunteers throughout the United States who will be willing to act on a moment's notice and join forces with us. We need volunteers.
Michael Valentin is a retired NYPD detective and the founder of the 9/11 Police Aid Foundation. Tel: 1-866-WTC-1013