July 29 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Monday signed the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund bill, ending a long fight by first responders for financial help stemming from the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act, which passed the House and the Senate this month, secures funding for 40,000 emergency personnel and others affected by the attacks, until nearly the end of the century. Since Sept. 11, 2001, 200 New York Fire Department firefighters have died due to illnesses related to the attacks.
"We're gathered this morning at the White House to honor our solemn duty to America's best, bravest, and finest," Trump said at the signing ceremony Monday, which was attended by a group of survivors. "Today, we come together as one nation to support our September 11th heroes, to care for their families, and to renew our eternal vow -- never, ever forget."
"We are deeply honored to be in the presence of more than 60 of these exceptional heroes," he added. "They answered terror with the emotional strength of true American warriors.
"I want to thank lawmakers in both parties for working with common purpose to pass this vital and critical legislation."
Zadroga, Pfeifer and Alvarez were all first responders who died years later from related illnesses -- Zadroga in 2006, Pfeifer in 2017 and Alvarez last month. Zadroga and Alvarez were NYPD officers and Pfeifer was a FDNY firefighter.
The fund initially operated from 2001 to 2004 and was reactivated in 2011. Monday's extension covers money for the fund through 2092. Before Monday, the $7.4 billion fund was quickly running out of money. Recently, administrators had cut benefit payments by as much as 70 percent.
"I'm sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic. But I'm angry, and you should be, too," he said. "And they have every justification to be that way. They responded in 5 seconds. They did their jobs. Eighteen years later, do yours."