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Hours Before Bush Address, a '9/11 Hero' Dies

Just hours before Cesar Borja Jr. attended President Bush's Jan. 23 State of the Union address in an effort to draw attention to the plight of ailing 9/11 responders, Borja's father succumbed to the devastating health effects of exposure to World Trade Center dust.

Cesar Borja Sr., 52, a former New York City police officer, was in critical condition and breathing through a tube in Mount Sinai Medical Center as his 21-year-old son traveled to Capitol Hill as a guest of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., to attend the State of the Union address. Clinton and other members of the New York Congressional delegation invited sick 9/11 responders and their families to the event to call for more federal aid for the responders, residents and workers affected by the toxic air at Ground Zero.

The elder Borja died waiting for a lung transplant as he suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, one of the respiratory diseases believed to be linked to working at Ground Zero.

Clinton, during a press briefing held before the State of the Union address, praised the former police officer for his efforts in helping out in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and said that the nation lost another of its "9/11 heroes." She also called Cesar Borja Jr. a "courageous and remarkable young man," as he insisted on attending the president's speech to honor and fight for his father's cause.

"As we mourn the loss of Cesar Borja and keep the Borja family tonight in our thoughts and prayers, we are reminded that thousands like Cesar Borja desperately need help and I hope the president in his budget will provide the funding needed to provide the health care our 9/11 heroes need and deserve," Clinton said.

Clinton: President Left Much Unsaid

After Bush's State of the Union address, Clinton criticized the president for neglecting to bring up the need for medical treatment for 9/11 responders in his much-anticipated speech.

According to medical experts and the New York Congressional delegation, there are thousands of first responders, workers, volunteers and others who are seeking medical treatment for respiratory illnesses that came about as a result of the toxic smoke that enveloped the city weeks and months after the World Trade center towers collapsed.

"Sadly, there was so much that the president left unsaid, including the need to help the thousands of responders, workers and others suffering devastating health effects from their exposure to the toxic fumes and dust at Ground Zero," Clinton said.

"9/11 Is Not Over"

The morning before the president was due to give his speech, Cesar Borja Jr. stood with New York lawmakers as well as with first responders and their families to make a plea for those whose lives were affected by being exposed to the fumes of Ground Zero. Borja asserted that "9/11 is not over."

"It didn't end in 2001," Borja said. "It is still affecting my father and numerous other first responders. My father is an extreme example of what can happen and what may happen and will happen in the future."

Borja Sr. is the fifth 9/11 responder believed to have died as a result of respiratory illnesses stemming from exposure to World Trade Center dust.

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