Ground Zero first responders and the lawmakers who backed their efforts gathered this afternoon across the street from the site of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to celebrate the passage on Wednesday of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which will establish permanent healthcare and compensation to the approximately 20,000 people who got sick from the toxic air at the site in the weeks following the destruction of the World Trade Center.

U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles. Schumer, both D-NY and sponsors of the Senate bill, U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, both D-NY, and Peter King, R-NY - the three co-sponsors of the House bill -- and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg were among the attendees. 

Schumer commended the first responder advocates of the bill for their perseverance.

These faces worked so hard and so long to make this happen, he said. Unlike other victory laps, this victory lap saved lives.

Nadler noted that he had been working on the bill in the House with Congresswoman Maloney for seven and half years.

We don't run away from our obligations, he said.

We will take care of those who take care of us, Maloney said.

Gillibrand pointed out the lobbying work done by Bloomberg, saying he used his national platform to advocate for the bill.

The bill is named for an NYC police detective believed to be the first person to die from working on the pile.

The measure passed the House in Septermber, but was blocked by a republican filibuster in the senate. The original bill provided $7.4 billion for healthcare and compensation, but the figure was pared down to $4.3 billion before it passed the Senate yesterday.

The Senate version then returned to the House and was passed Wednesday evening. It will now go to the President to be signed into law.

Republicans have called the measure a healthcare fund for New Yorkers and that the rest of the nation should not be saddled with it. Supporters point out that the terrorist attacks were upon the nation, not just New York, that the Bush administration lied to Ground Zero workers that the air was safe to breath, and that first responders came from every state in the union.