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Bush honors Sept. 11 responders' sacrifices

The posthumous medals recognize the service of firefighters, police and rescuers.

Associated Press
Published September 10, 2005

WASHINGTON - President Bush honored 442 firefighters, police officers and rescuers who died on Sept. 11, 2001, awarding posthumous Medals of Valor to their families at a White House ceremony Friday.

"A proud America will always stand in the shadow of their service and sacrifice," Bush told a crowd of some 1,200 friends and family, who wore cards with the names of their lost loved ones.

In the crowd, Dena Smagala smiled and videotaped the president's speech as her 3-year-old daughter Alexa, wearing red, white and blue ribbons in her hair, played barefoot in the grass of the south lawn of the White House.

Smagala was five months pregnant with Alexa when her husband Stanley Smagala, a firefighter in Brooklyn, died responding to the World Trade Center.

"This means everything - everything that my husband stood for and worked for, and it will mean more to my daughter when she's old enough to understand, because she never knew him."

The 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor was created by Congress. Those in attendance Friday included Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and New York representatives Peter King, Vito Fossella and Joseph Crowley.

Crowley lost his firefighter cousin John Moran in the attacks.

For the Sept. 11 families, the ceremony was an emotional and inspiring reminder of their loved ones' final moments helping others.

Arlene Howard, mother of Port Authority police Officer George Howard, said she was "very honored, because my son saved a lot of lives, and he wasn't even working that day. He was off, and he rushed in from home to help."

When hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center, men and women with badges of all types responded immediately.

The Sept. 11 attacks killed 343 members of the Fire Department of New York City, 50 Port Authority police officers and assistants, 23 New York Police Department officers, three state court officers, members of the Secret Service and FBI, and private ambulance workers.

Congress to investigate Sept. 11 loan program

WASHINGTON - Congress will investigate the "flagrant abuse" of a federal loan program designed to help businesses recover from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and make sure such problems don't occur with Hurricane Katrina relief, a key Senate Republican said Friday.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, announced the investigation in response to an Associated Press story Thursday that showed the federal program gave low-interest loans to companies that didn't need terrorism relief or even know they were getting it.

"The apparent widespread abuse of loans provided through the Supplemental Terrorist Activity Relief Act is nothing short of an outrage," Snowe said.

Snowe said she would demand answers from both the banks that gave the loans and the Small Business Administration, which supervised the program.

The economic toll from the Sept. 11 attacks has been estimated to be as much as $639-billion and to have cost 2-million jobs, according to a New York Senate panel study. The federal government responded with billions of dollars in loans and grants from numerous programs and agencies.

[Last modified September 10, 2005, 01:24:05]

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