HAMPSTEAD, NC (WWAY) -- Congress has been busy the last couple weeks before their holiday break tying to get as much passed as they could during the lame-duck session. One of their final votes will mean help for Ground Zero workers, including a Hampstead man.
Earlier this month we introduced you to Richard Dambakly. He was one of the first people to respond to the World Trade Center collapse on 9/11. He is happy Congress finally passed a bill to help people like him.
The events of September 11, 2001, are a defining moment in American history. The lives of those who responded to the disaster were forever changed, and some must live with a daily reminder of what they lost. Dambakly is one of those people.
He was there when the first plane flew into the World Trade Center until four months later when he found out he had cancer.
"To get cancer and then get the 'World Trade Center Cough' and everyone was getting sick, at that point, I didn't know if I was going to live or if I was going to die," Dambakly said.
Dambakly, who now lives in Hampstead, developed B-cell lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, while working for Verizon at Ground Zero. He was not included in the first bill passed by Congress to cover workers affected during the clean up, and he says he's not the only one.
He hopes the bill Congress passed late Wednesday will include those who were left out.
"They need to cover everyone. They need to cover everyone that worked down there," he said. "We went down there, we did what we had to do, now we need to be covered. Period."
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act creates a $4.2 billion spending package to help the sick. Although it's a couple billion dollars less than the original amount proposed, Dambakly says it's a step in the right direction.
"Right now, we're just hoping that they move it along, 'cause there's a lot of work to do still ahead, 'cause I don't wanna take it lightly and say the bill is passed, now we're done. It's not that easy," Dambakly said.
Dambakly said for his family and others who have been impacted, this means the world.
"What does it mean for my family? It's me being here and always being here as long as I possibly can," he said.
Dambakly's cancer is in remission, but he finds security in knowing that if he is affected again, he may have the support of the new bill.