If anyone out there needs a hearty cathartic cry today, please, settle in, stay a while—3 minutes and 12 seconds, to be precise, although it probably won't take that long for the tears to commence their silent journey down your crumpling face.
Why will you cry? Because you will be watching Jon Stewart cry, specifically over a heartwarming gift that is also heartbreaking: The bunker jacket belonging to his late friend, Ray Pfeifer, an FDNY firefighter and a 9/11 first responder who developed cancer from toxin exposure at Ground Zero. Pfeifer died at age 59, but throughout his illness, was instrumental in getting the Zadroga Act—which "provide[s] health monitoring and financial aid to the first responders, volunteers, and survivors of the September 11 attacks"—passed. He and Stewart became friends through lobbying, and Stewart wound up giving a eulogy at Pfeifer's funeral.
Stewart traveled to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to attend a sparsely populated Congressional hearing, in which he gave a fiery speech castigating lawmakers for their failure to show up, and urging them not only to pour more funds into the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, but also to make it permanent.
"As I sit here today, I can't help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting healthcare and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to," Stewart said. "Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders. And in front of me, a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one. Shameful. It's an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution and you should be ashamed of yourselves, for those who aren't here, but you won't be because accountability doesn't appear to be something that occurs in this chamber."
Please, watch the whole thing:
Jon Stewart testifies for September 11 Victim Compensation Fund: "Accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber…I'm sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic, but I am angry, and you should be too." pic.twitter.com/njxJzSmzSJ
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 11, 2019
Stewart's speech seemed to have its desired effect: On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to permanently reauthorize the Victims Compensation Fund. It is expected to pass a full vote on the floor.
Outside the hearing, as depicted in the video at top, retired FDNY firefighter Kenny Specht presented Stewart with Pfeifer's turnout coat, saying, "I believe everybody here today in this hallway has learned brotherhood and camaraderie because we all have one mission. We appreciate your help Jon, and this comes from John [Feal, a demolition supervisor at Ground Zero who purchased the coat at auction] and this comes from everybody in this hallway."
"I don't deserve this but I will treasure it like I treasured Ray and our friendship," Stewart responded.
Yes, Jon Stewart is crying, yes, but you are also crying.