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9/11 Student Activist’s Book Documents Fight for Health Care and Compensation

July 16, 2021 | Michael Barasch

Lila Nordstrom was a senior at Stuyvesant High School on September 11, 2001, only a few hundred feet away from the World Trade Center.

After the attack, she and her classmates evacuated, returning to school just a month later in early October.

Lila, other students, and teachers soon began to experience sinus and respiratory problems, an early indication that the air in Lower Manhattan was not safe to breathe.

In fact, the air contained toxins including ground glass, pulverized concrete, asbestos, benzene, and other carcinogens. Despite all this, the E.P.A. declared the “air is safe,” leading hundreds of thousands of people to return to Lower Manhattan to work, live, and attend school in the days after the attacks.

Eventually, public health officials would acknowledge that exposure to Ground Zero toxins increases the risk of developing 68 different types of cancer and many respiratory illnesses.

A few years later, Lila was denied coverage by every health insurance company in California as a result of her breathing problems.

Lila transformed her frustration into activism, founding StuyHealth, an advocacy group representing students and other young adults impacted by Ground Zero-related illnesses.

She and StuyHealth campaigned tirelessly on Capitol Hill for the permanent extension of the World Trade Center Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation, helping to secure medical care and compensation for the entire 9/11 community.

In August, Lila will publish “Some Kids Left Behind: A Survivor’s Fight for Health Care in the Wake of 9/11,” documenting her efforts to persuade members of Congress to protect 9/11 first responders and survivors.  

The book tells the amazing story of how Lower Manhattan students and teachers organized the fight for justice on behalf of the 9/11 community.

You can pre-order the book at

If you were there, we can help you access resources through the free World Trade Center Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. 

Visit or call 212-385-8000 today.

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