Search Site
Violinist Whose Music Comforted 9/11 First Responders Dies

Though she wasn’t a firefighter, police officer or EMT, Marya Columbia described herself as a “responder” when applying for the World Trade Center Health Program. She qualified for benefits as a survivor because her Lower Manhattan apartment was in the designated exposure zone. However, that classification does not begin to describe Ms. Columbia’s contribution to the Ground Zero recovery effort in the weeks and months following September 11, 2001.

Ms. Columbia who died of lung cancer in October, 2019, was an accomplished violinist who played with the American Philharmonic and artists such as Josh Groban and Diana Ross. She and her husband had watched the 9/11 attacks from outside their home before being evacuated. Shortly afterward, she became part of the Music Givers — a group of volunteer musicians that performed for exhausted first responders who came to historic St. Paul’s Chapel to take a break from working on the pile. In the chapel and throughout the neighborhood, people knew that something was different about the air but they spend months breathing in hazardous substances, due in part to false government assurances.

Marya Columbia’s sad death at the age of 63 highlights important issues to remember as we look to help others who did their part to aid New York City’s cleanup:

  • Long latency periods — Cancers that affect the lungs, such as mesothelioma, sometimes take 30 or more years to develop. When symptoms present themselves, a victim might not make the connection to their Ground Zero proximity decades earlier.
  • Overlooked volunteers and residents — Understandably, significant attention is devoted to the problems suffered by first responders who were on the front lines during the World Trade Center recovery and cleanup. However, volunteers who handled meals, helped at comfort stations and carried on numerous other tasks should also be aware of the risk they face, along with those who lived or went to school below Canal Street.
  • Potential victims not in the WTC Health Program — Even after symptoms of her fatal cancer started to affect her health, Ms. Columbia had not yet applied to the WTC Health Program, which provides medical monitoring and health coverage for individuals who were exposed. Shortly before her death, she was admitted to the program, paving the way for other musicians, many of whom lack consistent health insurance coverage of their own, to receive the help that is available.

Marya Columbia deserves to be remembered for how her gifts provided solace during dark days for New York. Hopefully, her example continues to benefit others.

Barasch & McGarry represents people suffering from 9/11-related illnesses and others who were located in the exposure zone around Ground Zero who believe they might have been affected. For a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, please call 888-351-9421 or contact us online.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Compensation available to residents and office workers, teachers and students – not just responders and volunteers
Our Attorneys
  • "Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson handled everything professionally and with patience. They always had time to answer all my questions and did what they promised. Thanks esp to Brian Calamaris Lee London, and Mariya Atanasova. Thank you." - William Collins, FDNY

  • "If I could give them six stars I would...don't even bother talking to anyone else concerning 9/11. The whole team worked night and day to deliver an outstanding settlement. They are honest, hard working and extremely professional. Just make the one phone call and let them do the rest." - Les Margulis, resident in the exposure zone

  • "I had a very good experience with Michael and Mariya. They made the process stress free. I would recommend this firm to anyone seeking assistance with 9/11 related illnesses." - JE Kirwan, worked in the exposure zone

  • "The people at this firm were just great. They were concern with making sure I was taken care of in every way possible. When I was given an award Mr. Barasch didn't think it was a fair amount and appealed the decision which got me a larger award. I am very satisfied with everything they did for me in the past and are willing to do for me and my family in the future." - Bob Wiecezak, FDNY-Retired

  • "Excellent law firm. Lee London and his staff were very responsive and always followed up with phone calls or emails. This firm is a strong example of what caring and personable lawyers are all about." - Letitia Egan, wife of client, volunteer in the exposure zone

  • Deadline Extended to Register for Compensation

    There is still time to apply for significant compensation if you have been diagnosed with any of the 68 cancers that doctors at the WTC Health Program (WTCHP) have linked to the WTC toxic dust. The deadline to apply to the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) is two years from the date that a cancer has been certified by the WTC Health Program — or any other governmental agency. The two-year period to register doesn’t start on the day of a cancer diagnosis. Rather, it starts only when a cancer survivor is made aware their cancer was linked to exposure to the WTC toxins.

    For those who died from their WTC-linked cancers, the two-year period for their family to register starts on the day of the death of the WTC victim.

    Register For Compensation

Please help spread the word about the strict two-year deadline to register a claim

Many people have tried to complete the VCF application on their own, only to learn that it requires answers to hundreds of questions and many documents to download. It would be our pleasure to help you complete the process in order to ensure that you receive the compensation that you are entitled to. Please call us for a free consultation.

Let a knowledgeable attorney help you figure it out

A cancer diagnosis can be terrifying. You undoubtedly have questions about your disease and how you will pay for treatment. Lawyers at Barasch & McGarry ensure you understand the complex requirements and help devise the best strategies for obtaining compensation and appropriate medical care under the Zadroga Act. Contact our law firm online or call 888-351-9421. The initial consultation is free, so it costs you nothing to find out whether a lawyer can help.
  • Barasch & McGarry Personal Injury Websites

  • Subscribe to our Newsletter

  • Contact Us

    Fill out the form below with any questions or info on how to get your free consultation

    Quick Contact Form