First Responders and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund
Remarks prepared for delivery.
I’m honored to be here today with all of you. I had the opportunity to visit the memorial last October, soon after I became Director. Walking through these exhibits and pausing by the reflecting pools is always a powerful and moving experience, for every visitor. But now, nearly a year later, being here and watching the water move through those dark pools carries a different meaning for me, a different weight.
Because in just the past six months, I’ve attended the memorial services of not one, not two, but three FBI agents who served as first responders in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks: Melissa Morrow, Dave LeValley, and Brian Crews. They weren’t just good people. They were some of the best people.
Men and women who served their country in its greatest hour of need. Much like the thousands and thousands of first responders who poured into this city in the hours and days after the attacks and the first responders who worked day after day, and night after night, in Pennsylvania and Virginia. And we’re only now beginning to understand—and witness—the long-term effects of that work and the full extent of the sacrifices all of our first responders made. That’s why we’re here today.
There’s a sense in law enforcement that we’re as tough as they come. That we can handle anything. That we’re meant to carry the burdens of the people we serve, and never complain. That our shoulders are supposed to be strong enough to carry the weight of the world. But that’s too great a burden for anyone to bear alone.
Many in this room either served as a first responder in the wake of September 11, or knows someone who did. You stepped up when you were most needed. You saw things you’ll never forget. You lived through experiences you’ll never fully get over. And now it’s our turn to help you.
There are resources that may be available to you. And yes, it’s the government, so there’s the inevitable paperwork. Lots of paperwork. But we have people here to help navigate the process for both the Victim Compensation Fund and the World Trade Center Health Program. People who can help walk you through it.
Because no one knows what tomorrow will bring. You make light of it, maybe even joke about it. Because you’re in law enforcement—and that’s one of our most time-honored survival mechanisms—that dark sense of humor, that ability to smile in the face of the worst case scenario, and to keep going in spite of it.
And for most folks in law enforcement, most agents, and most first responders, the general sentiment is that there’s work to do. There are cases to run and people to help and there’s always another emergency right around the corner. And you think to yourself, “I don’t have time to start that process right now.” You think, “It’ll take forever, and I’ve got stuff to do.” Or, “I don’t feel sick, I’ll be fine.” But you’ve got to take the time now to take care of yourself first, for once. This isn’t something for you to shoulder alone.
We care about each other. We care about your loved ones—your spouses, your children, your families. There’s no better or simpler way to say it. We care about you, and we want to help in any way we can.
In the days, weeks, and months after September 11, you did more than what was asked of you, under worse circumstances than we could have imagined. You fought for justice. You fought to bring peace to the families who lost their loved ones. You fought to make sure that what happened that day would never—ever—happen again. So let us help you now. Let us fight for you. We’re in this together, and we’ll tackle it together, just as we have in the past 17 years.
Now, I’d like to introduce retired Supervisory Special Agent Lu Lieber. For many years, Lu was assigned to the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, where she investigated and supervised high-profile counterterrorism investigations, including the 9/11 attacks.
She’s here to tell us more about her experience as a CT investigator and with the programs we’re talking about today, and to offer her advice and words of wisdom. Lu, thank you for making the time to be here, and, more importantly, thank you for your years of service to the FBI and to the country.