WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — Moments before Jon Stewart blasted Congress for failing to make sure the 9/11 victims’ compensation fund never runs out of money, an emotional moment took place in the hallway, just prior to his testimony.
Watch: Jon Stewart Given Ray Pfeifer’s Bunker Coat
Stewart was given the bunker coat of FDNY legend Ray Pfeifer.
Pfeifer was one of thousands of firefighters who worked for months on the toxic pile at ground zero following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He was diagnosed with renal cancer six years later and passed away in 2017 at the age of 59.
While battling cancer, Pfeifer was a champion of the Zadroga Act, which secured health care for 100,000 people.
Stewart gave a eulogy at Pfeifer’s funeral.
Watch: Ray Pfeifer Funeral Ceremony
On Tuesday, Stewart was given Pfeifer’s East Meadow Fire Department bunker coat after it was sold at a fundraising auction. The winning bidder, John Feal, who runs the FealGood Foundation, said he wanted to make sure Stewart was given the coat.
According to WCBS 880, retired FDNY firefighter Kenny Specht presented an emotional Stewart with the coat, saying, “I believe everybody here today in this hallway has learned brotherhood and camaraderie because we all have one mission. We appreciate your help, Jon, and this comes from John and this comes from everybody in this hallway.”
Watch: Jon Stewart’s Emotional Testimony Before Congress
Stewart embraced Specht and went on to deliver blistering testimony before Congress.
Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, also called out lawmakers for failing to attend a hearing on a bill to ensure the fund can pay benefits for the next 70 years. Pointing to rows of empty seats at a House Judiciary Committee hearing room, an angry Stewart said “sick and dying” first responders and their families came to Washington for the hearing, only to face a nearly deserted dais.
The sparse attendance by lawmakers was “an embarrassment to the country and a stain on the institution” of Congress, Stewart said, adding that the “disrespect” shown to first responders now suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses “is utterly unacceptable.”
Pointing to rows of uniformed firefighters and police officers behind him, he said the hearing “should be flipped,” so that first responders were on the dais, with members of Congress “down here” in witness chairs answering their questions.
First and foremost, Stewart said, families want to know: “Why is this so damn hard and takes so damn long?”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)