Questions, 20-Years after Terror Attacks, what are Bank HR Departments Waiting for as 93% Left Unaware of Urgent Help Available to Them
A national retiree advocacy non-profit group is urging Wall Street’s leading banks and financial institutions with offices in Lower Manhattan on 9/11 to do more to help educate their current and former workers and retirees about the life and death medical impacts they face because of exposure to toxins.
More than half-a million people were exposed to deadly toxins from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 80% of whom, about 400,000 people, were civilian non-first responders. Of those civilians, only about 7.5% are registered to receive lifetime health screenings and medical care, in contrast to 80% of first responders.
Among them are Michael Brocking who worked at Merrill Lynch in Lower Manhattan. He explained to the American Retiree, “The EPA told us it was safe, so we went back. Everyone I knew believed them and went back to work. Now the person who sat next to me died of cancer and the person who sat behind me has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, not mention my 9/11 related conditions. It is no coincidence."
Another, Alfred Oliva worked at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), one of several financial markets located towards the southern tip of Manhattan, known as the financial district: “Everyone talks about the supposed clean air, but everyone knew something was up. There were air quality machines on every corner. 80-100 of my friends and colleagues have died due to 9/11 related illnesses and they range from 30-75 years old. I have come down with three different skin cancers. It’s always better to know the monster in front of you and for so many 9/11 survivors, different cancers have been that monster.”
This genuinely concerning issue for older workers and retirees who worked in the vicinity is being raised by a group trying not to be critical of the corporate and banking powerhouse firms, but says, there is a lot more they could and should do to educate and inform their alumni and retirees as a first step.
“While half-a million people were exposed to 9/11 toxins in Lower Manhattan, it’s a sad reality that only some 7.5% of civilians who either worked, lived or went to school nearby have registered for medical care and health screenings,” said Edward Stone, Executive Director and General Counsel of the non-profit Retirees for Justice. “This means that nearly 93% of all others remain in the dark, much to the detriment of their health and survival in their retirement years, and the long-term security of their families.”
He continued, “As we approach the 20th Anniversary of the terror attacks, it leaves our nation with a crisis. We believe leading Wall Street institutions not only have the opportunity to take action but the moral imperative to educate, inform and lead an effort to enroll ex-employees in free federal programs that will protect their families when they become ill.”
Retirees for Justice analyzed a database of some 16,000 Zadroga Act and Victim Compensation Fund claimants who have registered, including nearly 2,000 from Wall Street firms, banks and three financial exchanges: NYSE, New York Mercantile Exchange, and American Stock Exchange.
Ken Muller was on his way to work when the first tower was struck. He retired from Goldman Sachs after 21 years. “I always thought the federal programs were for the firemen and police, but I’m a victim, too. It’s critical that Wall Street institutions to inform their workforce from 2001 and 2002 of the deadly serious medical concerns, and that they are all eligible for protections and benefits through the World Trade Center Health Program and 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.”
“I had no idea that my husband’s cancer was linked to the World Trade Center dust and that downtown workers were eligible for benefits. The stock exchange was just blocks from Ground Zero,” added Carol Lapides, whose husband Lou worked on the American Stock Exchange and died from stomach cancer in 2018. “Lou returned to work the week after 9/11 because the government wanted to reopen Wall Street and the EPA said the air was safe. For months, he would come home coughing every night. I’m very grateful to know that I will have financial security thanks to the Victim Compensation Fund, but what about the tens of thousands of others?”
In an effort to get financial markets and New York operating quickly in September 2001, Environmental Protection Agency leader, Christine Todd Whitman, said, just days after the attacks, "Given the scope of the tragedy from last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C., that their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink.” That statement was not accurate.
As part of their “patriotic duty,” the Wall Street workforce hurried back to Lower Manhattan, demonstrating America could not be defeated. Now, workers from major financial firms are among the sick and dying. These include Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Bank of New York, Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Prudential, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and more.
September 11, 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks and the nearly immediate return to Wall Street on September 17, 2001.
“It is never too late to be a good Samaritan and good corporate citizen,” said 9/11 legal advocate Michael Barasch, founder and partner of Barasch & McGarry, which advocates for the largest group of 9/11 registrants under the Zadroga Act, whose 9/11 database provided these figures. “It is absolutely clear that many civilian workers did not know that they are eligible to receive benefits from the World Trade Center Health Program or the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. I implore everyone to be your neighbors’ advocate and help guide them to obtain the protections and benefits to which they are entitled.”
Congress long ago established a fund to provide lifetime medical screenings, healthcare, and compensation to Ground Zero workers who become seriously ill or died, so it will not cost Wall Street firms anything to simply educate and inform their former employees. The government now recognizes 68 different cancers, respiratory and other health issues afflicting the 9/11 community as connected with the toxins and therefore covered under the federal law.
Anyone who lived, worked, or went to school in Lower Manhattan, south of Canal Street, any time between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002, is eligible for healthcare and, potentially, compensation.
Exposed day after day to the smoldering fires, many first responders registered, as much attention was paid by advocates and the media to lingering illnesses and deaths of first responders. Civilians, including financial industry workers, were just as exposed and equally likely to become sick, but unfortunately, many have simply not taken advantage of the federal programs.
Civilians in Lower Manhattan on 9/11 and/or during the 8 following months
Office Workers 300,000 Students & Teachers 50,000
Only 29,500 civilians, or 7.375%, have enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program (Source: WTC Health Program)
Many working there may not have been direct bank employees, but their health was nonetheless impacted. A tech worker employed by EMS2, Jeff Flynn was assigned to work at Goldman Sachs said,”10 years after, I wound up with male breast cancer. I felt a lump in my chest—which I didn’t even know males could get, so I thought it was a cyst. A monetary award from the Victim Compensation Fund has been lifechanging.”
“It wouldn’t cost any of these companies a dime to reach out to their employees working for them in 2001 and 2002, and alert them of the health benefits awarded to them,” says John Feal, founder of the Feal Good Foundation. “Unless they speak up and act, these massive companies likely are not concerned about their ex-employees, many of whom probably retired years ago. I urge all employers in the area at the time to reach out to their workforce and guide them.”