Son of Late Ground Zero Worker Makes Health-Care Plea

Associated Press
Thursday, February 1, 2007

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 -- The son of a Ground Zero rescue worker who died last week of lung disease met with President Bush on Wednesday to urge expansion of health services for those still fighting illnesses.

"On behalf of all World Trade Center victims, I expressed the urgency and the desperate need for financial support for health services," said Ceasar Borja Jr., 21.

He said he told the president that the funding should be expanded not just for "the heroes and heroines" who risked their lives to save victims under the twin towers, but also for people exposed to the fumes because they lived or worked in the area.

Borja's father, Cesar Borja, was a police officer who worked 14-hour days in the smoldering pit after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. He was 52 and awaiting a lung transplant when he died.

Bush met Borja, his mother, Eva, 16-year-old brother Evan and sister Nhia, 12, at Federal Hall in Manhattan, where the president delivered a speech about the economy Wednesday.

About an hour before the speech, sick Sept. 11 workers and neighborhood residents gathered nearby at the edge of Ground Zero to criticize Bush's proposal to spend an additional $25 million to fund a health-care program.

"Twenty-five million is absolutely not enough," said Marvin Bethea, 47, pointing out that some lawmakers, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), have proposed $1.9 billion in additional funds.

"First responders who need treatment will get the treatment they need," Bush spokesman Tony 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."

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