On the ninth anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, the 9/11 Police Aid Foundation is speaking out about a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero and asking fellow officers to remember the price paid by now-disabled New York City first responders.
The group, which was founded by medically retired NYPD Detective Michael Valentin, offers assistance to officers who developed cancer and other debilitating illnesses as a result of the toxins from the World Trade Center towers.
So far, 46 officers have died as a result of these illnesses. In May, Joseph Rodriguez of the NYC Corrections Department, became the latest casualty on the list.
"After the attacks, so many people from all over the country came to the aid of New York City, and the United States came together as a patriotic whole," Valentin wrote in an e-mail to POLICE Magazine. "Many of the first responders who courageously performed their selfless and honorable duties with the nation watching, are now suffering and dying with 9/11-related illness."
While attending National Police Week in 2009, Valentin found a funeral card with a picture of St. Michael so he could write on it the name of NYPD Officer Robert Zane, who had died at the time. He then placed the image on the foundation's memorial poster.
The group has stated its opposition to Imam Rauf's city approved plan to build the Cordoba House/Park51 Islamic center near Ground Zero. Valentin also says the Obama administration has failed to grasp the gravity of the issue.
"Presently we seem to have an administration that refuses to acknowledge the word 'terrorism' or 'terrorist,' and dares to call the actions of our police officers 'stupid' without knowledge of the facts surrounding the incidents they label," Valentin wrote.
Since its inception, the organization has assisted several hundred police officers and their families throughout the U.S. The foundation has garnered the support of the New York State Fraternal Order of Police.
In the coming year, the foundation plans to expand assistance to all police officers that have been injured in the line of duty, as well as their families, throughout the country.
Watch the video, "9/11 Police Aid Foundation," to learn more about the foundation.
Also, listen to our podcast interview with author Anthea Appel, an NYPD patrol officer who relayed the stories of police first responders in the book, "The First Responders: The Untold Story of the New York City Police Department and September 11, 2001."