Dead Officer’s Son Asks Bush to Increase Aid to 9/11 Workers

Published: January 31, 2007
After meeting with President Bush today, the son of a former police officer who died last week from an illness that may have been linked to his rescue work at the World Trade Center on 9/11 said Mr. Bush had assured him that he wanted to expand federal financing for the medical needs of people injured at ground zero.

“I’m not quoting Mr. President, but what I heard is that there will be more support,” Cesar Borja Jr., 21, said in describing his meeting with the president. “I felt a dedication. I felt the motivation and appreciation as well that the president has for my father, my family and myself for coming this far.”

Cesar Borja Sr., 52, died of a lung disease hours before his son attended the State of the Union address last week in Washington to draw attention to the plight of 9/11 rescue workers like him who became ill after they were exposed to toxic dust at ground zero.

The day after he died, his son asked for a meeting with the president to tell him about the health problems of ground zero workers. The president agreed to meet with him today, just after he delivered a speech on the economy at New York’s Federal Hall, which is located near the World Trade Center.

The meeting came a day after the president proposed spending an additional $25 million on a health-care program related to 9/11 at Mount Sinai Medical Center and a similar effort for New York firefighters.

Officials warned last month that money for those two major monitoring and treatment programs would run out in a matter of months.

Mr. Borja said he appreciated the president’s meeting with him and his mother, Eva; his brother, Evan; and his sister, Nhia.

“I expressed how the funding should be expanded not just for the heroes and heroines that without hesitation ran to save, rescue and ensure a future for all of the lives that they would find there that they could bring home,” Mr. Borja said in a news conference after the meeting.

He said he was also speaking up for people who lived and worked near the World Trade Center when it was attacked who cannot pay for treatment of the illnesses they may have contracted as a result of their proximity to the disaster.

“My father was fortunate to have his own health insurance and his own pension,” Mr. Borja said. “But there are those what have to pay out of their own wallets for health monitoring, for doctors’ appointments, for medicine.”

The elder Mr. Borja died of pulmonary fibrosis, a type of chronic lung disorder that involves scarring of the tissue between the air sacs. He was enrolled in a monitoring and treatment program for ground zero workers and had been accepted as a potential candidate for a lung transplant, but his critical condition, complicated by infection, precluded him being listed to receive a lung, his physician, Dr. Maria L. Padilla, told The Times last week.

The younger Mr. Borja, a college student, has been active in asking for more federal money for treatment of 9/11 workers. He was invited to attend the State of the Union address as a guest of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In Washington, the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, said the president was eager to fill any gaps in coverage for people left ill by the attacks.

“First responders who need treatment will get the treatment they need,” Mr. Snow said. “Many are already covered by insurance programs, many through their union; but if there are gaps in that, we’re going to do it.”

Just before the president spoke today, about a dozen people rallied near the site of his speech to criticize what they said was inadequate financing for their problems.

One of those at the rally was Mariama James, who lives four blocks from the World Trade Center and has three children with health problems she attributes to the aftermath of Sept. 11, The Associated Press said. Ms. James said she spent $480 a month for their allergy, sinusitis and asthma medicines.

“You have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to protect us from those who would do us harm,” The A.P. quoted her as saying about Mr. Bush. “We ask that you protect us from those who did us harm. The $25 million is not enough even for the needs of the workers.”


should say hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars.

$25 million?

A couple dudes just won $250 million in the lottery....

Insulting if you ask me.