This September marked the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. After so long, you’d think we’d have given the first responders who heroically rushed to the scene the support they need and deserve. Yet many of these heroes continue to suffer serious health problems, in part because they have not received the care necessary for a full recovery.
Those who arrived at Ground Zero were immediately exposed to a toxic cloud of dust and soot filled with carcinogens, which originated from the burning remains of the World Trade Center. Initially, they were not given protection from this cloud; they were eventually offered breathing masks, but overall protection was minor. Christine Todd Whitman, who led the EPA at the time, announced it was safe to breathe the air at Ground Zero.
It turned out that air was anything but safe. It contained toxins and carcinogens that damaged the lungs of everyone present. There were also other dangers, including traumatic sights that caused many who saw them to develop severe PTSD.
In the years since, many first responders have developed chronic and fatal health problems that have been unpleasant, debilitating, and often deadly. They range from sleep apnea to COPD to PTSD to gastroesophageal reflux disease to 70 different types of cancer; first responders often experience several of these conditions at once. Many of these issues in turn lead to other health problems. Studies show that sleep apnea, for example, can cause weight gain and diabetes, while PTSD increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
In some cases, first responders left New York specifically as a result of health issues they developed at Ground Zero. Retired NYPD Detective Heidi Higgins, for example, developed such severe respiratory issues that she moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. As she explains, “The New York doctors, the 9/11 doctors, said ‘You need to get out of here. You need to get out of this area. You need to go where there’s an ocean where you can breathe in the sea air with the salt.’” While this has helped her breathe, it has also made it harder for her to claim her rightful benefits. But everyone should know that The World Trade Center Health Program is a national program with locations all over the country.
Barasch & McGarry is committed to supporting all first responders and everyone in the 9/11 community. Ever since we advocated for our client James Zadroga, we’ve known how badly our nation’s heroes need our help. By making sure everyone involved in cleanup and rescue operations gets the financial support and time off they need, we take one small step toward thanking them for their enormous sacrifice.
To learn more about getting the benefits you deserve as a first responder or as a member of the 9/11 community, call Barasch & McGarry at 212-385-8000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.