Tow truck driver T. J Gilmartin hauled away destroyed FDNY vehicles from Ground Zero after 9/11, and now suffers diminished lung capacity and multiple breathing problems. He told the Daily News about his recent trip to Capitol Hill, where he hoped to sway Senators to vote in favor of the Zadroga 9/11 health bill, which will provide money and health care to sick first responders.
While he noted many positive experiences with most of the Senators--he called Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby of Alabama "gentlemen"--he says his interaction with Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) did not go as well.
"I couldn't get to see McCain at all," he said. "I went to his office four times, and it was all like 'you need an appointment.'"
Gilmartin later saw McCain near an elevator in the Rotunda, and he approached the former presidential hopeful to discuss his thoughts on the bill.
"I stepped in front of him, and I was very respectful. I told him who I was and I asked for his help on the Zadroga bill," he said.
McCain said "thank you for your service", and then told Gilmartin that he couldn't help him.
He then got on the elevator, the paper said, and left.
"If his eyes were daggers, I'd be dead," he said. "They'd all be in my heart."
McCain's spokeswoman, Brooke Buchanan, told the Daily News she remembered the brief interaction differently. She said McCain thanked Gilmartin and that he simply caught the Senator at a bad time. He was extremely busy, she said, and on his way to a hearing on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
The Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was sponsored by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens), and passed in the House in September. It needs two more yes votes for it to pass in the Senate, which would turn the bill into a law.