Tribute to Ray Pfeiferby Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand
Posted on 2015-12-18
GILLIBRAND. Mr. President, I want to speak for a moment about a
great man and a wonderful friend of mine. His name is Ray Pfeifer, and
he is an incredible leader and an inspiration to many, myself included.
Ray was a New York City firefighter for 27 years and 220 days, by his count. He called it the best job in the world, and he said he was proud to put on the uniform. But Ray had to retire last September--years before he wanted to--because he has cancer. His cancer has spread throughout his body--to his ribs, his leg, and now to his brain.
We know that cancer can strike randomly, sometimes with nothing to blame, but there is nothing random about Ray Pfeifer's cancer. Ray now has cancer because he was a first responder at Ground Zero, because he was one of thousands who rushed to help after we were attacked on 9/11. He served in Engine 40, Ladder 35, in the 9th Battalion, and most of the members of his battalion were killed on 9/11. Ray spent months on the pile searching for his friends. He wouldn't leave. He spent months digging for bodies in the rubble. He spent months there, breathing in horrible, toxic air that hung over Ground Zero like a deadly mist.
Many Members of the Senate would actually recognize Ray because he has been down here so many times--dozens of times--working the Halls of Congress, asking Senators to do the right thing and support the 9/11 bill. He was a strong, smiling man in uniform, traveling in his wheelchair from office to office, with contagious optimism and unmatched grace. Ray Pfeifer has never wavered. He has never been deterred. He has never even given up his efforts to pass the 9/11 health program. But you must know, Ray was never doing this for himself; he was doing it so other first responders didn't have to.
Ray wanted to be here today to see this bill passed because he had worked so long and so hard, but last week Ray had to go back to the hospital because his cancer had spread to his brain. Ray is physically in New York right now, but Ray's indomitable spirit is with us in the Capitol. His strength is with us. His unmistakable grace is with us.
Ray, I know you are listening. We never ever could have gotten this done without you. You did it. But I must tell you, Ray, this speech isn't for you; this speech is for your wife Caryn and your son Terrance and your daughter Taylor.
Terrance was actually sworn in as a New York City firefighter earlier this year, just like his dad. This speech is for them because they shared you with all of us. This speech is for all the responders who fought for all these years so that our 9/11 heroes could have the health care for the rest of their lives.
The city of New York and the United States of America owe Ray and his family a debt of gratitude that can never truly be paid. Ray is the embodiment of everything we strive to be as Americans: selfless, kind, brave, optimistic, someone who fights for what is right and never gives in.
Ray, I know you are a fighter, and I know you will get through this. You have the prayers of more people than you know, and may God bless you and your family. I look forward to celebrating this hard-fought victory in person with you soon.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Mexico.