John Feal, who has helped lead the effort to set up long-term funding for those sick with World Trade Center-related illnesses along with comedian Jon Stewart, told ABC News that he planned to attend with 40 other first responders, but that Stewart would not be in attendance due to a family obligation.
The fund was created to provide compensation to anyone who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those attacks. Without reauthorization, the funding was set to run out in December 2020.
Stewart and dozens of first responders descended on the Capitol to lobby in favor of making the fund permanent. His celebrity and passionate advocacy for the bill shone a spotlight on the issue, and his testimony on Capitol Hill ripped lawmakers for failing to fully fund the program.
"They responded in five seconds," Stewart told lawmakers at a hearing on June 11. "They did their jobs. With courage grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours!"
Even as Stewart and others worked toward an expeditious solution, some 9/11 victims were not able to see the fruits of their labor. After testifying alongside Stewart in June, NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez passed away from cancer just weeks before the bill was passed.
Alvarez had given his badge to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a sign of the promise McConnell made to the ailing detective to bring the legislation to the Senate floor for a vote without any political jockeying over the budget.