ROBERT SMITH: I'm Robert Smith outside Federal Hall in Lower Manhattan. After speech on the economy, President Bush met with Cesar Borzha, Jr., the son of a policeman who had worked at Ground Zero and last week died of a lung ailment.
CESAR BORZHA: This was one of those rare moments all my life where I planned for something to happen and it occurred exactly as I wished and dreamed and prayed that would.
SMITH: Borzha is convinced that his father died from exposure to toxic fumes that came off the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center. He says he told the president that the federal government has to make the commitment to paying for the health care of everyone who helped look for survivors or cleaned up the site. Borzha says that Mr. Bush seemed supportive.
BORZHA: I felt the dedication that the president has for my father, my family and myself for coming this far.
SMITH: There's other proof that the administration is listening. Today, spokesman Tony Snow said that they were committed to giving all first responders the treatment they need. And yesterday, the White House announced that they would include $25 million in next year's budget to continue funding a September 11th related health program.
But at Ground Zero, ailing 9/11 workers gathered to say the $25 million is barely enough for a few months of care. Marvin Bethea is a paramedic who now suffers from asthma and sinusitis.
MARVIN BETHEA: You can't please us by giving us a piece of the steak and letting us have a couple bites out of it and then tell us four months from now there is no more steak, there is no more treatment.
SMITH: Doctors at Mt. Sinai Hospital have screened 19,000 Ground Zero workers, and say that seven out of 10 suffer lung problems. The recent deaths of several emergency responders have drawn attention to the problem, but none have gained more attention than Cesar Borzha, Jr., who was attending the State of the Union speech as a guest of Senator Hillary Clinton when his father died awaiting a lung transplant. When asked what his father would say about his 21-year-old son meeting with the president, Borzha answered -
BORZHA: My father would honestly not even say anything. He would just pat me on the back once, smile at me, do like one of those manly hero head nods, like this. And I would love it.
SMITH: Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.
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