The late U.S. Rep. Mark Takai is being honored as part of a undraising walk scheduled for next week in New York City for his role in helping provide lifetime benefits for 9/11 first responders

Started in 2003 in New York, the Tunnel to Towers walk is now held around the country to raise money for catastrophically injured emergency workers and service members. Dan Moynihan, a former firefighter and Marine who was instrumental in passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act, is organizing Team Takai for the annual New York walk, which is set for Sept. 25.

Congressman Mark Takai with left, Deputy Communications Director Alex Hetherington. washington DC. 23feb 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The late U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, right, in his Washington office with Deputy Communications Director Alex Hetherington in February 2015. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Zadroga legislation faced Republican opposition before Takai and other prominent figures — including comedian and former host of “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart — rallied support for its passage in December as part of the federal omnibus spending bill.

Moynihan told Civil Beat in December that Takai became a strong supporter and bill co-sponsor in their first discussion of the measure in early 2015 and allowed Moynihan and his fellow advocates to use his Congressional office as home base when they were in Washington lobbying for the measure.

The legislation finally made it to the House floor in early December, just as Takai was recovering from his first round of treatment for pancreatic cancer. Takai returned to Congress just in time to cast his vote for the measure and Moynihan called out his leadership in an interview on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

“I know I mentioned him last time I was on the show, but he’s back on the Hill now, he’s recovering from cancer himself, but Congressman Mark Takai from the Hawaii 1st who has made sure he’s back in the District (of Columbia) now to vote for our bill when it comes up,” Moynihan told Maddow.

Moynihan was deeply affected seven months later when Takai died from cancer. In the Team Takai page on the Tunnel to Tower website, he noted that the late congressman and his wife, Sami, had hoped to travel to New York, where Moynihan planned to give them a tour of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

“Mark passed away without being able to make that trip,” wrote Moynihan. “In honor of his tireless efforts on not only our behalf, but that of veterans, our service members and so many others we walk in his honor. He will make it to the memorial in spirit with us.”

Moynihan has invited Hawaii friends and supporters of Takai to support the walk by making an online pledge. He has set an early goal of $2,000 but hopes to exceed that.

The namesake for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the walks and other events produced by the group was a New York firefighter who died on 9/11 running from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center twin towers.

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