Eleven years have passed since the Twin Towers fell, 11 years since terrorists attacked America. Eleven years since al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger planes, two of which crashed into New York’s World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. The third, destined for Washington, crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers and crew fought the terrorists to regain control of the plane. Nearly 3,000 people died that day.
And people are still dying.
Just last week, the New York City Fire Department added nine names to the 55 already engraved on a wall honoring fellow firefighters who have died of illnesses related to ground zero and rescue work, reports NBC News. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approved the addition of 14 categories of cancer to the list of diseases connected to the 9/11 attacks. The Zadroga Act — named after NYPD Detective James Zadroga, who died after working at ground zero — was passed in order to financially assist the survivors of 9/11 who were affected by illnesses linked to the toxic dust of ground zero. Dr. John Howard, administrator of the World Trade Center Health Program (established by the Zadroga law), told NBC News that the decision “marks an important step in the efforts to provide needed treatment and care to 9/11 responders and survivors.”
John Feal of the FealGood Foundation told the New York Daily News, “Anybody who got sick because of their heroic action has been financially burdened. The devastation is still running rampant through the 9/11 community.” Feal estimates that 400 people have died due to 9/11 related illnesses since the attacks. For many of their families, the addition of cancer to the Zadroga Act has been a long time coming.
“It’s a bittersweet thing,” John Walcott, an NYPD detective who worked at ground zero for months and was diagnosed with leukemia in 2003, told the New York Post. “It took 11 years to do what should have been done a long time ago.”
Michael Barasch, a New York lawyer who represents thousands of ground zero residents and volunteers, also reported to the New York Post that “there’s new scientific evidence that the dust is what is now linked to not only the respiratory illnesses [previously covered by the Zadroga Act], but all these cancers.”
The new regulations, said to be officially released sometime in the next days, will now include these cancers.
While some are thrilled with the news, others are skeptical. Thomas Gilmartin, who has already been covered by the Zadroga Act due to his lung disease and sleep apnea, talked to the Post about the new regulations. “They’re going to add cancers,” commented Gilmartin, “But are they going to add more money to the fund? It’s crazy. Every time, we gotta fight. It’s two years since Obama signed that bill, and nobody’s got 10 cents.” The Post reports that Sheila Birnbaum, the Victim Compensation Fund’s special master, will “be permitted to spend only $875 million of the fund’s total in the first five years after the initial payments begin.” Birnhaum said that more money isn’t expected to be added to the account.
For many, the pay off will be too little, too late. And more victims will be added to the list begun 11 years ago.