By Della Hasselle
LOWER MANHATTAN — Nearly 3,000 people died during the Sept. 11 attacks but a new exhibit in the New York City Police Museum is a reminder that the number of 9/11-related deaths keeps growing.
The shields of 29 police officers who have died from 9/11-related illnesses went on display at the Downtown museum Tuesday, where they will remain until later this year, when they will be moved to Washington D.C.
New York officials said they hoped that in Washington the shields, like the musuem's "Artist As Witness: The 9/11 Responders" exhibit, would help convince the Senate to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which was already passed by the House and would provide health care to first responders and others who have been sickened by toxins at Ground Zero.
"This is a reminder for friends and the rest of the country that there's an obligation that comes with the dedication of their service.," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
"They simply did everything that we could ask in the world," museum Executive Director Julie Bose said at the ceremony. "They worked hundreds of hours. They did it to restore order in our city. They did it to search for missing comrades, and they did it to bring closure to loved ones."
Officer Scharina D'Aiuto, who lost her co-worker Det. Kevin Hawkins from respiratory illness in May 2007, said the Zadroga bill was most important for the families of the deceased.
"It's very important because without the bill the families have nothing. They'll just be devastated," D'Aiuto said. "Everyone thinks somehow that when you die, you're rich, but that's just not true. There are bills to pay."
The ceremony took place just a day after thousands of workers, police officers and firefighters suing New York City over their exposure to World Trade Center toxins had to meet a midnight deadline to join a legal settlement of up to $815 million.