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Byrd Calls for More Protection for First Responders

With the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks looming, and with the world focused on the foiled terrorist attacks in Great Britain, U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said he is on a mission to give first responders more protection, especially if another terrorist attack should occur.

"Too many people in Washington haven't learned a key lesson of 9/11," Byrd said. "We must give our first responders the tools and money they need to do their jobs. But instead of making sure that our police officers and firefighters receive the training and equipment that they need, the White House has put forward budget after budget that shortchanges our emergency response teams."

According to Byrd, the Bush administration, in its latest budget plan, proposed to cut firefighter equipment and training grants by 46 percent and proposed to eliminate a program that calls for the hiring of additional firefighters. The Bush administration also cut grants to state and local law enforcement by more than $1 billion this year, Byrd asserted.

"Neither cut made sense to me, and I went to work to do all that I could to make sure that our emergency response teams did not feel the pain of the budget axe," Byrd said.

Byrd, the leading Democratic member on the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations panel, said he has worked to increase funding for first responders, airport security and seaport and border protections.

It is estimated that 12,000 first responders policemen, firefighters and other emergency response personnel have fallen ill due to a lack of appropriate training and protective equipment during the rescue and recovery efforts after the World Trade terrorist attacks.

Four first responders firefighter Stephen Johnson, police officer James Godbee, detective James Zadroga and EMS paramedic Debbie Reeve have died from their illnesses, which allegedly were brought on by being exposed to World Trade Center dust particles.

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