By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Charles Giles was not in Washington Thursday night to watch the House of Representatives defeat the 9/11 health bill.
Giles, 42, an EMT who rushed into the North Tower shortly before it collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, was stuck at home in New Jersey, where his failing lungs and heart keep him confined to bed.
“If I don’t get my medical care, I’m going to die,” Giles said in a phone interview Friday morning. “What happened last night is a total disgrace. Our government is totally broken."
The $7.4 billion Zadroga Act, named for fallen NYPD Detective James Zadroga who died from a 9/11-induced lung ailment, would reopen the victims’ compensation fund and provide medical monitoring and treatment for the first responders, residents, workers and students who were hurt or became ill in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The bill failed to achieve the two-thirds majority it needed to pass Thursday night, based on the special rules used to bring the measure to the floor. The 255-to-159 vote broke roughly down party lines, with most Democrats supporting the measure and most Republicans opposing it.
The House is expected to vote on the bill again this fall under different rules, when a simple majority would pass it.
But that may not come soon enough for first responders like Giles, who said he has been diagnosed with a variety of illnesses and takes 39 medications a day.
Giles said he suffered first and second-degree burns and a scratched cornea in the collapse of the North Tower, but he checked himself out of the hospital on the afternoon of Sept. 11 and returned to the site that evening. Over the next several months, he said he logged 497 hours there doing rescue and recovery work.
“We gave our hearts and souls on 9/11,” Giles said. “Congress doesn’t see that. All they care about is the almighty dollar.”
The House’s vote also drew censure from lower Manhattan politicians and activists Friday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the vote “outrageous.” He slammed both the Republicans who voted against the bill and the Democrats who brought it to the floor under the special rules that required a two-thirds majority.
Allan Tannenbaum, a TriBeCa resident who documented first responder illnesses through a project called “9/11: Still Killing,” said he was “disgusted” with both parities.
“I’m wondering what kind of country we live in where we can’t come together and do the right thing,” Tannenbaum said. “Congress passed huge bailouts of billions of dollars to banks, and yet they can’t find a way to provide health maintenance and monitoring?"
Julie Menin, chairwoman of Community Board 1, called the vote “a slap in the face.”
“It’s unacceptable,” she said. “It’s basically akin to, ‘Drop dead, New York.’”
John Feal, a 9/11 first responder who lost half of his left foot at Ground Zero, is planning rallies this weekend in New York and this fall in Washington.
Feal said he was tired of partisan politics.
“At the end of the day, it’s the 9/11 responders who suffer,” he said.