New Jersey’s 9/11 First Responders Will Get Stronger Protections Under New Laws

New Jersey’s first responders to the Sept. 11 attacks gained new protections Monday after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a pair of bills into law. 

In a ceremony in Jersey City, across from the site of the attacks, Murphy paid tribute to the two North Jersey firefighters for whom the measures were named and noted the “stark contrast between how we treat our 9/11 heroes in New Jersey” and how Congress has responded. 

Murphy said he was reminded of Luis Alvarez, a retired New York police detective who appeared with the comedian Jon Stewart last month to push federal lawmakers to reauthorize a fund to compensate victims and their families. Alvarez, who searched for survivors in the debris of the fallen World Trade Center towers and developed cancer years later, died two weeks ago. 

“Our message today is crystal-clear. We remember, we honor, we act,” Murphy said. 

The two measures were named after firefighters from North Jersey who suffered injuries in the wake of the terrorist attacks. One of them, Thomas P. Canzanella, was a Hackensack deputy fire chief who died 12 years ago of cardiac arrest. 

Canzanella spent several weeks at ground zero after the attacks and pushed for stronger medical coverage for those who worked there. The Thomas P. Canzanella Twenty First Century First Responders Protection Act extends state workers’ compensation protections to first responders so “they should never have to question whether they will be compensated accordingly for the sacrifices that they make,” said one of the sponsors, Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, D-Mercer. 

Canzanella’s daughter, Allison, grew emotional at the ceremony remembering her father, who was 50 when he died. 

“I’m so proud to be his daughter every single day,” she said. 

The other bill Murphy signed was named the Bill Ricci World Trade Center Rescue, Recovery, and Cleanup Operations Act. It gives disability coverage to police and firefighters who were part of the rescue, recovery or cleanup at the World Trade Center site between Sept. 11 and Oct. 11, 2001. 

Ricci, who recently retired from the Clifton Fire Department, had volunteered at ground zero and has lung disease connected to his work there. But he had been denied coverage because he was not on the clock.

“I was shocked, angry,” he said. “That can’t be right, can it? Well, it no longer is.” 


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