WASHINGTON — A former New York policeman died in a Manhattan hospital, just as his 21-year-old son prepared to appear at the State of the Union speech to symbolize the desperate health problems of some Sept. 11 workers.
Cesar Borja, 52, had been in intensive care, breathing through a tube, at Mount Sinai Medical Center, awaiting a lung transplant.
His son, college student Ceasar Borja Jr., was invited by Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, to attend President George W. Bush’s speech as a reminder to the president of workers who were stricken with a host of illnesses after exposure to toxic World Trade Center debris.
The younger Borja learned of his father’s death in a phone call while eating dinner around 6:30 p.m. He still planned to attend the speech.
The son’s comments earlier in the day showed he was aware of just how critical his father’s health situation had become — and why it was still important for him to speak out in Washington.
“It’s a very emotional time, and it’s very difficult,” said the son. “My father is a symbol of those in need, in desperation.”
Ceasar Borja said he came to Washington to make the point that there are many more whose lives are threatened by their exposure at ground zero.
“9/11 is not over. It didn’t end in 2001. It is still affecting my father and numerous other first responders,” he said. “My father is an extreme example of what can happen and what may and will happen in the future.”
Clinton and other New York lawmakers have been urging the government for years to pay for treating Sept. 11-related illnesses.
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