Following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, PA, more than a hundred thousand first responders of all professions were involved in the rescue, recovery, and cleanup operations.
In New York’s Lower Manhattan, dedicated members of the NYPD, FDNY, the National Guard worked alongside utility crews and those working demolition, construction, hauling.
Few may recall, but underground fires burned for 99 days.
Toxic air was present for nearly nine months even as then federal EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman assured Americans that, “their air is safe to breathe, and their water is safe to drink.”
Those assurances were simply not true:
The government’s priority at the time was to instill confidence in the American people and to get the major stock exchanges, all within walking distance of the attack site to reopen.
In fact, there were staggering levels of deadly toxins released during the World Trade Center’s collapse, and from those underground fires.
According to 9/11 legal advocate Michael Barasch, this resulted in nearly 100,000 first responders and some 400,000 downtown workers, students, teachers, and residents being exposed for months at a time, to toxins including asbestos, ground glass, benzene, jet fuel, concrete dust, and more.
Mr. Barasch was the attorney for NYPD Detective James Zadroga, for whom federal 9/11 legislation was named. According to Barasch, Detective Zadroga’s autopsy showed that “the Ph-level of the toxins identified was comparable to ingesting the chemical compounds in Drano.”
In the years since, Barasch & McGarry, which is and was then, just two blocks from the attack, has served as the most vocal advocates for the 9/11 community. It represents more than 20,000 individuals who have become ill and families of those who have died from the toxins.
As a sad illustration of the sickening air being ingested, 50% of the Barasch staffers wound up developing cancers and two of the firm’s young paralegals died in their early 30’s.
Barasch is putting out an urgent call across the nation for those that were there. He says many have moved on with life. Some retired to places like North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Arizona. In fact, he has clients in every Congressional district in the nation, save two, and across several continents.
Some 20 years after the attack, some 80% of the first responder community has registered with the World Trade Center Health Program and the Federal Victims Compensation Fund, yet less than 7% of the approximate 400,000 civilians have stepped forward to protect themselves and their families should they become seriously ill or die prematurely.
Barasch warns, “If you are one of those who was there between September 11, 2001 and May 31, 2002, when the clean-up and recovery operation concluded, please take action and register, even if you are not currently sick.”
68 DIFFERENT CANCERS COVERED = FEDERAL HEALTH & COMPENSATION FUND:
Congress established a federal Health Program and Victims Compensation Fund for a good reason, says Retired FDNY Chief Richard Alles, and it is not just about protecting first responders. “We have many different people who were exposed to the same toxic dust as firefighters and cops.”
The World Trade Center Health Program has identified 68 different types of cancers, most respiratory issues, such as asthma or COPD, and gastrointestinal diseases as caused by exposure. In 2019, Congress extended the health program for 70 years, recognizing the growing national health crisis 9/11 has become to so many Americans.
“Regardless of whether you were a first responder, contractor, engineer, union member, or office manager, you qualify for the same protections and compensation granted with the fund,” says Mr. Barasch. “The biggest step forward here is increasing awareness so that any civilians present that day can register.”
“The sad irony is that while approximately 80% of the first responders have registered for the free federal Health Program, less than 7% of the civilians have thus far registered,” said Barasch.
The time to act is now:
If you are a widow, widower, or child of someone who was there and has since died from one of the 68 different cancers, lung, or other diseases associated with the toxins, you do qualify, although the deadline to register is just months away, July 29, 2021. Barasch warns, “You may not have been there, but you certainly know someone you know and love who was. It is critical to make them aware and encourage them to register before the deadline approaches.”
Family members of a loved one whose death is linked to the World Trade toxins are also qualified to register, as long they file within 2 years of the date of death.
“The action you take to register with the VCF and the Health Program is about protecting your family should you get seriously ill. As COVID-19 has swept through our nation, the respiratory illnesses, and cancers the 9/11 community suffers, puts it at greater risk,” said Barasch.