John Devlin volunteered to work as a first responder at Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. He worked on “The Pile”, removing debris from the remains of the Twin Towers and sifting through the rubble for body parts.
Seven years after the attacks, he was diagnosed with throat cancer, a condition his state government – but not the US federal government – recognises was due directly to the work he did at Ground Zero. For Devlin, the government has failed to protect those he calls the “Patriots”, who wanted to stand up in the face of terrorism. Legislation to compensate 9/11 responders, the Zadroga Bill, provides those like Devlin who made a physical sacrifice with financial aid to cover their medical costs. But Devlin remains angry that the amount of money available for the bill was whittled down in Congress and says that if there was ever a repeat of such an attack, he would be among the first to warn workers’ unions that politicians in Washington failed to do enough for him and his colleagues at Ground Zero.