HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Right after the Twin Towers were leveled on September 11, 2001, New York volunteer firefighter Dan Moynihan went to work in the rubble at Ground Zero.
“It was 10:40 in the morning and black as night. It looked like it was 10:40 at night,” he said, remembering the dust that filled the air.
He spent a month digging through what was called "The Pile," searching for survivors.
"To this day it haunts me because I know there were people underneath that we couldn't get to," he said.
Thousands of 9/11 first responders, volunteers and survivors suffer from health problems caused by exposure to the toxic dust at the World Trade Center site.
Moynihan had a brain tumor and was diagnosed with multiple illnesses.
"There are now 68 known cancers in our community related to our work at the Trade Center," he said.
Moynihan and other Trade Center first responders are lobbying Congress to make permanent the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund. It provides financial aid to those affected by the attacks.
He said timing is crucial.
Fund awards were decreased by 50 percent this year and will be cut by 70 percent next year. The present bill is set to expire in 2020.
"We are getting sicker. We're dying at faster rates," Moynihan said.
Bills to make the compensation fund permanent were introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate, but both are moving slowly.
"It really comes down to money," he said.
Moynihan said Hawaii's Congressional delegation supports the measures, but he's urging voters to call them to encourage them to pass the bills.
He hopes Sen. Brian Schatz co-sponsors the Senate version.
"The families of those who passed and those who are still here are relying on this bill really heavily," he said.
Moynihan's husband, Jarret Yoshida, is from Aiea. Several months out of the year they live on Oahu.
Health issues related to the Trade Center forced Moynihan, 54, to quit after 20 years as a firefighter. But he’s not giving up the fight for the permanent compensation bill.
“Four years in the Marines and 20 years in the fire department teaches you that you get the task done. Until that’s done you don’t stop,” he said.