The Rev. Stephen Petrovich, 58, of Huron, Ohio, is Metropolitan Archbishop Emeritus of his orthodox Ukrainian Church.  He does not perform archbishop duties because he is dying, from the damage to his lungs from the air at Ground Zero in 2001. Petrovich spent nearly two weeks at Ground Zero giving last rites to human remains and counseling the living.

He expects this Christmas to be his last. He has written the following letter in support of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which will likely come up for a vote in the Senate today or tomorrow. The measure will provide $6.2 billion for permanent healthcare and compensation for  the approximately 20,000 Americans who are suffering from illnesses contracted while working at Ground Zero in the weeks following the terrorist attacks.

Passage is uncertain. Some Republican Senators are opposed to the bill:

Senators of the United States of America,

My name is Rev. Stephan Petrovich.  I was a First Responder Chaplain at the World Trade Center; I am now ill and receiving hospice palliative care for the effects of the toxic dust at Ground Zero.  I responded to the Call on 9/11 working at the morgue and on the Pile giving last rites to the bodies of the recovered victims. I am terminally ill from 9/11 yet cannot afford the medical treatments I need as my entire Workers Comp check and most of my Social Security goes to home care.  I have been borrowing for years now to pay ongoing ($50,000+) medical bills and am now facing winter with $800 in gas arrears that the company is threatening to turn off.

This is most likely my last Christmas; I dread to think of all the Responder children and their families who have suffered over the past 10 Christmases. To the Senate I say: we the Responders have done nothing but answer the call  to help on 9/11, yet there are people in power who seem to trifle with human life.  Money appears to be the root of the problem, yet how can one put a price on human life?

Senators, please be assured: we are not seeking to enrich ourselves, we are only asking for help--to live.  There is nothing more frightening than being unable to breathe; I know this first hand as I have slept in a chair the past three years as I cannot breathe lying down. I have not attended church in four years due to my health; the next time I attend will be at my own funeral.  I implore Senator Enzi: Sir, I understand your concern but Senator, Please! Give us our Health Care and pass S.1334 this most important Bill! 

In closing, I ask the Senate to please do the right thing by helping the sick and dying and showing mercy to the suffering.  Pass S. 1334 for the good of mankind and our great country America. You have been elected by the people, for the people--may this calling bestow you with honor, duty and compassion.   I wish to extend to each of you a most happy Holiday Season and only the best of health to you and your families--God Speed. 

Sincerely Yours, 

Rev. Stephan Petrovich

9/11 First Responder