After more than half a year of trying to understand and battle the coronavirus pandemic, we know that COVID-19 infects people of all ages and backgrounds, with the elderly being exceptionally vulnerable. The heroes of 9/11 face heightened risk from the virus due to underlying health problems dating back to that fateful day.
“9/11 made these people sicker, more vulnerable,” said thoracic surgeon Dr. Raja Flores of New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital. “There is still a lot we don’t know about COVID-19, but the healthier you are to begin with, the better your chances of beating it. Here you’ve got people who were risking their lives to save us, and now they’re getting sick because of their selflessness.”
Almost 75,000 of the 9/11 responders and survivors admitted to the World Trade Center Health Program are suffering from a wide range of life-changing illnesses, many of which are chronic respiratory or gastrointestinal conditions that contribute to their vulnerability to COVID-19.
Here at Barasch & McGarry, we represent more than 20,000 survivors and responders and we have witnessed the impact COVID-19 is having on our clients. Nearly 100 of them have passed away due to complications caused by a combination of the virus and health conditions tied to their exposure to toxins on 9/11.
Michael Hankins, a Barasch & McGarry client and retired fire marshal from Queens, developed gastroesophageal reflux disease as a result of inhaling toxins while sorting through evidence from 9/11. He contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic and died on April 2. His wife, Victoria Burton, told the New York Post that Hankins’ health “went south very quickly” after the COVID-19 diagnosis.
Arthur Lacker, another Barasch & McGarry client, who spent two years clearing debris at Ground Zero, developed lung cancer and asthma and fought both conditions with everything he had, only to contract COVID-19 and lose his life on April 22. Lacker’s wife, Robin, was not able to be with her husband in the hospital because he was sick during the first peak of the pandemic, when visitation wasn’t allowed.
These are but two stories of 9/11 families devasted, first by the 9/11 attacks and now by the virus. Now more than ever we encourage all members of the 9/11 community to enroll in the free WTC Health Program. We’ve created a video discussing the WTC Health Program’s benefits, featuring Michael Weiden, a doctor from New York University. If you aren’t enrolled in the program, please watch this two-minute explanation. It could truly help prolong your life.
If you are a member of the 9/11 community and have COVID-19-related concerns, please reach out to your doctor. Barasch & McGarry is a firm devoted to helping 9/11 responders and survivors. Our New York attorneys stand ready to offer legal guidance. Please call us at [ln::phone] or contact us online. Your initial consultation is free of charge.