Jon Stewart Receives FDNY Legend's Coat In Emotional Moment Before 9/11 Hearing

WCBS Newsradio 880

(WCBS 880) — An emotional Jon Stewart, who was on Capitol Hill on Tuesday for a Congressional hearing on the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, was given the turnout coat of FDNY legend Ray Pfeifer, who died from 9/11-related cancer two years ago.

Pfeifer, who served more than 27 years with the FDNY, was at the World Trade Center after the buildings collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001 and worked for months on the toxic pile at ground zero. 

He was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and made the trip to Capitol Hill dozens of times to lobby for 9/11 health and compensation bills before his death at age 59 in 2017.

Retired FDNY firefighter Kenny Specht presented Pfeifer's East Meadow Fire Department bunker coat to Stewart, who delivered the euology at Pfeifer's funeral, outside a Congressional hearing room on Tuesday.

John Feal, who runs the 9/11 advocacy organization FealGood Foundation, purchased the coat Monday after it was put up for auction by Pfeifer's brother.

"John Feal paid handsomely for this yesterday and outbid three other people to see to it that he took possession of this coat," Specht said. "John wanted Jon Stewart to have this."

Several 9/11 first responders signed the coat before it was given to the comedian.

"I believe everybody here today in this hallway has learned brotherhood and camraderie because we all have one mission," Specht said. "We appreciate your help Jon, and this comes from John and this comes from everybody in this hallway."

"I don't deserve this but I will treasure it like I treasured Ray and our friendship," said Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, who joined sickened first responders and students in Washington D.C. to ask Congress to expand the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, which has nearly run dry.

His emotion carried over into the hearing when he talked about the first 911 call on Sept. 11, 2001.

"They responded in five seconds, they did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility -- 18 years later, do yours," he demanded of lawmakers.

During the hearing, Stewart accused Congress of “callous indifference and rank hypocrisy” in failing to renew the fund. 

"Why this bill isn't unanimous consent and a stand-alone issue, is beyond my comprehension. And I've yet to hear a reasonable explanation as to why," said Stewart, who also blasted lawmakers for failing to attend Tuesday's hearing. "Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders, and in front of me a nearly empty Congress."

"Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak—to no one," Stewart said of the first responders and their families who came to Washington for the hearing.

He called the lack of attendance by Congress members "shameful" and "an embarrassment to the country."

Stewart concluded his statement to a standing ovation from 9/11 responders.

Lila Nordstrom, a student a Stuyvesant High School, returned to school after 9/11 while the fires were still burning and debris was scattered everywhere.

“It was a really scary time; and it was so scary, that it was even hard to think of the health consequences in that moment,” she said.

She testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday about her 9/11 health problems at the shocking number of 30-something year-olds with cancer.

Retired FDNY Lieutenant Michael O’Connell also testified.

“My message is that I want the federal government to support the people that are still sick and dying,” O’Connell says.

Retired NYPD Detective Lou Alvarez, who has stage four colon cancer, said, "You all said you would never forget, well I'm here to make sure that you don't."

More than 20,000 people have been sickened with 9/11 related illnesses.

The House is expected to pass the bill.