NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jon Stewart joined Mayor Bill de Blasio to honor a cancer-stricken Sept. 11 first responder who helped win the fight for permanent funding for the 9/11 Zadroga Act.

At City Hall on Saturday, de Blasio presented former firefighter Ray Pfeifer with a Key to New York City.

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“For a week after that horrible day, Ray slept on his fire truck. He was on at Ground Zero for the next eight months scouring the debris,” de Blasio said. “People asked him why he stayed. His answer was painful but simple: to find his friends.”

Pfeifer rose from his wheelchair to say that the legislation passed by Congress last month extends health care to tens of thousands of first responders who rushed to the World Trade Center on 9/11.

“I had so much help; the fire department’s been above and beyond, the doctors, the nurses. That 72,000 people are in this program now, 72,000 people have health care that’s deserving,” Pfeifer said. “Everyone in this room somehow touched me, and I feel it. I think that’s why I’m so strong today.”

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9/11 first responder Ray Pfeifer presented with key to New York City on Jan. 9, 2016 (Credit: Roger Stern/1010 WINS)

9/11 first responder Ray Pfeifer presented with key to New York City on Jan. 9, 2016 (Credit: Roger Stern/1010 WINS)

Stewart and Pfeifer spent weeks in the halls of Congress challenging lawmakers to vote for the legislation that extends federal health monitoring and treatment for Sept. 11 first responders through 2090.

“I love this man. He is a great example to all of us about how to live our lives with grace and with selflessness,” Stewart said of Pfeifer.

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Stewart made sure politicians who balked at supporting the bill were named in the media. The former “Daily Show” host said he was a “wingman” to Pfeifer and other first responders who pushed for the legislation.