9-11 Responders Injury Lead to Five Deaths in One Week. In just one week alone, five first responders who rushed to the World Trade Center site following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in Manhattan died. The five first responders included three Fire Department of New York (FDNY) firefighters and two New York Police Department (NYPD) officers who all died from 9/11-related illnesses within one week in February 2017.
Each of these heroes rushed to the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 to assist with the rescue and recovery effort. Years later, their bravery cost them their lives. “Every time someone passes away, a part of me dies because I have the job of researching it and collecting data on these passing,” said John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation. “I have been to 159 wakes and funerals,” he added, according to NBCNewYork.
Mr. Feal is the founder of the FealGood Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy that assists first responders injured in the line of duty. His Foundation has also raised money for a large granite memorial on Long Island that contains the names of each first responder who died from a 9/11-related illness. “Most people remember two buildings coming down…. But now, here we are 16 years later and thousands of people here in New York and across the country are sick and dying from their heroic actions,” reported NBCNewYork.
The Long Island memorial lists some 800 names and was most recently updated in September 2016. Mr. Feal says that, 55 more NYPD and FDNY heroes have died since the most recent update, including the five who most recently have died. Many have died from cancer. Among the five who recently died was veteran firefighter Robert Newman, who spent his entire 39-year career working from a Lower East Side firehouse. Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Rose Scott also died. The Long Island memorial bears an American flag that will forever fly at half-staff—Mr. Feal’s way of saying thank you and paying homage. Speaking of the memorial, Mr. Feal said “This was built so history is not distorted… . So that no one can take away from the heroic sacrifices these men and women did for their city and their country.”
Following the September 11th terrorist attacks that destroyed Manhattan’s World Trade Center buildings, researchers determined that the thick plume of dust and debris that followed the collapse of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and hovered over lower Manhattan contained a toxic mix of compounds, including asbestos; lead and other metals; partially combusted and/or pulverized cement, jet fuel, wood, and paper; pulverized construction materials in addition to asbestos and lead that included glass, silica, fiberglass, and concrete; complex organic and other chemicals and potentially hazardous materials.
Exposure to the toxic dust cloud has been associated with a variety of health problems, including airway disorders such as asthma and obstructive pulmonary disease; digestive orders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease; mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); and over 60 types of cancer. Tragically, many have succumbed to their illnesses in the years since the attacks.
National law firm, Parker Waichman LLP, has long fought to ensure that first responders, rescue and recovery workers, and other survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks receive the medical care and compensation they deserve. Members of the firm worked for implementation of the original Zadroga Act and the 2015 re-authorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
What is the Zadroga Act?
The Zadroga Act Provides Health Benefits and Compensation to ill and injured responders and survivors of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Individuals are able to receive medical benefits and compensation through the WTC Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). Both of these programs are funded through the Zadroga Act, which was initially signed into law in 2011 and was reauthorized in late 2015.
Many 9/11 responders; survivors; lawmakers; and advocates, including Parker Waichman, have long fought to pass the Zadroga Act and to fight for its renewal. If the WTC Health Program was not in place, responders and survivors who suffer—or who may suffer in the future—from 9/11-related health conditions would lose access to their free medical treatment and monitoring. The program also tracks illnesses since the attacks, which helps the medical community better understand emerging illnesses impacting survivors and responders. Likewise, loss of the VCF would lead to loss of compensation for responders and survivors.
Zadroga Act reauthorization essentially made the WTC Health Program permanent, funding an extra $3.5 billion to ensure the program remains open until 2090. The VCF received an extra $4.6 billion in funding and will remain open for an additional five years.
Various conditions are eligible for coverage under the Zadroga Act. Covered cancers include certain cancers of the head and neck, mesothelioma, prostate cancer, soft tissue cancer, non-melanoma skin cancer, melanoma, digestive system cancers, respiratory cancer, rare cancers, cancers of the female reproductive organs, urinary system cancers, eye and orbit cancers, thyroid cancer, cancers of the blood and lymphoid tissue, childhood cancers, and breast cancer. Eligible conditions also include specific acute traumatic injuries; airway and digestive disorders; and mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, and depression.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most commonly covered conditions among living responders and survivors include aerodigestive disorders, followed by mental health conditions, cancer, and musculoskeletal conditions. CDC statistics also note that more people are enrolling into the WTC Health Program. If fact, 2,500 additional individuals enrolled over the one-year period ending June 30, 2016.