On Sept. 11, 2001, 2,606 people were killed when terrorists dive bombed the twin towers in New York City, both inside and outside the buildings. Another 266 died aboard the four hijacked airliners.
But the real untold story is that a total of 4,252 people have actually perished as a result of the deadly attack —and they are still dying today.
In the years since that devastating day, at least 1,400 first responders have died as a direct result of illnesses caused by the toxic cloud that engulfed lower Manhattan for months after the attack. An estimated 19,000 are now sick or dying. Thats the dirty little secret that politicians don’t want to talk about, and very few people even know about.
When the twin towers went down, uniformed first responders and civilians alike flocked to Ground Zero hoping to help in whatever way they could. State and Federal agencies, the National Guard and the Red Cross brought people in from around the country. The air, they were told, was safe. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman herself, took to the airways to reassure people. Lower Manhattan had to re-open for business — that’s where the stock market is after all.
Try to bring your old computer to the landfill and throw it away. You can’t. It’s against the law. Why? Because of all the chemicals and hazardous materials that are inside. Now picture the fact that every desk in every office in the twin towers had a computer on it, and they all burned in the fire after the towers fell, releasing toxic vapors that hung in the air for months. Plus there was cement dust, asbestos, and burned plastic. But the air was safe to breath, responders were told.
The first wave of illnesses and deaths following 9/11 were lung related. The second wave, which many experts warned about at the time, is cancer. Of the 19,000 sick responders, roughly 2,000 have a certified form of cancer. Many others have cancers that have not been officially recognized as being related to 9/11. And this doesn’t count an unknown number of people who fell ill or have died, but didn’t relate it to their time at Ground Zero.
In 2010 Congress grudgingly passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, setting up a Victims Compensation Fund for responders, but not until billions of dollars were slashed from the fund in order to overcome a Republican filibuster.
October 3 is the deadline for registering with the Victims Compensation Fund. People who were at Ground Zero, whether they were first responders or civilian volunteers, are being urged to register with the program, even if they are not currently sick. Anyone who develops a 9/11-related illness on Oct. 4 who is not registered, will be entitled to nothing.
Of the 19,000 people registered with the Victim’s Compensation Fund, 12,000 are not from the tri-state area. There are 435 congressional districts in the United States, and 430 of them have at least one registered 9/11 responder. This is a national problem, and one that is not going to go away no matter how much politicians wish to ignore it. Americans are still dying as a direct result of the 9/11 attacks, and more are likely to become sick as the years go by. It’s not something we can afford to put in the rear view mirror and hope it goes away.
Accusations and conspiracy theories aside, the air at Ground Zero was obviously not safe to breathe. The city of New York, the state of New York or the federal government should have had the courage to admit that. They didn’t, and the death toll continues to rise.
Anyone who responded to Ground Zero and is not currently registered should go to vcf.gov to register. Time is running out.