According to the New York Daily News, many students and teachers who were at schools close to Ground Zero have shared that they have been diagnosed with cancers and other serious illnesses. Many government officials are spreading the word about a federal program that is available to help victims during their illnesses. So far, a minimum of 22 teachers and students have been diagnosed with different types of cancer.
For example, Alexandra Jorge was in her final year at Pace University in September of 2001. She is now 37 years old. On September 11, 2001, she spent hours walking from Manhattan to Queens, since transportation was shut down. She was forced to walk through a fog of toxic debris that emerged after the towers fell.
Pace University opened again a couple of weeks after the attacks.
Jorge remembered, “For over a year, it was just horrible. You could smell it. It smelled like jet fuel.”
When Jorge was 28, she was informed that she had thyroid cancer. She said, “It was devastating, honestly. It was a devastating diagnosis.”
Attorney Michael Barasch represents more than ten individuals who attended school near Ground Zero. Half of this group of clients attended Stuyvesant High School, which was just a couple of blocks from the place of the terror attacks. Barasch also represents ten teachers who are diagnosed with various cancers. Many others suffer from respiratory illnesses.
At a recent press conference, Barasch stated that the area is “basically a cancer cluster.”
His clients include those who were in school-whether elementary school or college in the area surrounding Ground Zero. Now in their 20s and 30s, they have been diagnosed with colon cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, and other serious illnesses.
Barasch commented, “What did these kids and teachers do wrong? The only thing they did wrong was to listen to the EPA and believe the EPA when it said, ‘Come back, the air is safe.'”
As for Jorge, she was able to receive compensation for her thyroid medication through the World Trade Center Health Program. She said, “I’m cancer-free, thank God.”
The deadly illnesses of many first responders who saved lives and engaged in recovery efforts after the September 11 terror attacks have been well documented. However, many New Yorkers have been unaware that they were also eligible for compensation through government programs if they suffered from similar health conditions. Any person who worked, attended school, or lived near Ground Zero and has been diagnosed with a disease or illness related to the toxic chemicals that hovered in the air may be eligible for medical care and financial compensation provided by the Zadroga Act.
Those who are experiencing symptoms but are unsure as to whether they are eligible for Zadroga Act benefits, may schedule a medical evaluation to determine whether their symptoms hint at a serious condition.
Maria Sanabria was teaching at Leadership and Public Service High School on the morning of September 11, 2001. The school is located on Trinity Place, which is just a five-minute walk from where the Twin Towers once stood. Sanabria, along with her students, fled after terrorists attacked. She recalled, “There was a lot of debris. It was very chaotic. The smoke, the ashes-I couldn’t see hardly anyone. It got really scary.”
Two of Sanabria’s former coworkers have lost their battles to cancer. Sanabria endured years of throat problems and breathing issues and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year. She had surgery in July and is still undergoing treatment. Sanabria said after being diagnosed, “I just broke down crying. I wasn’t thinking about 9/11. I was just thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I’m going to die.'”
According to Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, many more teachers have likely been diagnosed with cancer, but have no idea that they could receive help for their illnesses. To ensure these teachers know about available programs, the teachers’ union has reached out to everyone who was employed at 12 different Manhattan schools close to Ground Zero. Additionally, it has contacted parent/teacher associations.
Mulgrew explained, “We just started seeing anecdotal evidence of members who were coming to us with specific types of cancer…There was a trend…The federal government is the one who told people it was safe. That was a lie. It was an absolute lie.”
At Confucius Plaza in Chinatown, the tenants’ association is conducting several workshops, providing information about available programs.
At this point, the program has paid $3 billion to eligible claimants. Approximately 80,000 individuals have signed up for care and other benefits through the World Trade Center Health Program. However, up to 400,000 could be covered.
In the group of 80,000 who have signed up for the World Trade Center Health Program, around 12,000 are locals who lived, worked, or attended school around Ground Zero. The remaining 68,000 are all first responders.
How does the Zadroga Act help 9/11 victims?
Under the Zadroga Act, compensation is available for 9/11 victims if they meet certain criteria.
First, the claimant must have lived, worked, or attended school in the area around Ground Zero between the month of September of 2001 and May of 2002.
The claimant’s injuries must also be eligible for coverage. Examples of these injuries include:
- Cancers, including, but not limited to, breast cancers, skin cancers, kidney cancers, lymphoma, leukemia, colon cancer, and bladder cancer
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
- Interstitial lung disease
- Sleep apnea
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Acute traumatic injuries
- Musculoskeletal disorders (for first responders only)
The above conditions are a small sampling of the ailments that are covered by the Zadroga Act. With the assistance of an attorney, you will be able to determine if you are eligible for coverage.
To obtain compensation, the victim must submit medical records and other proof of injuries. There are government agencies that provide medical care and assist with this process.
Though the Zadroga Act has been revived to offer additional compensation to victims with chronic illnesses, there are still deadlines in place that limit how long a victim has to file a claim to seek compensation.
Generally, these deadlines are within two years of the date that a claimant knew or should have known that an injury was caused by the 9/11 terror attacks. If the victim has died because of one of the covered illnesses or diseases, the filing deadline is only two years from the date of death.
When compared to the court system, the Zadroga Act provides expedited resolution of personal injury and wrongful death claims. Many claims are resolved within two years. In the court system, they may easily take several years to resolve. However, it is important to file a claim as soon as possible if you believe that your injuries were caused by the 9/11 terror attacks. With the assistance of an experienced attorney, you will ensure that your claim is handled properly.
Contact Parker Waichman LLP to Discuss Your Claim
At Parker Waichman LLP, our attorneys are experienced in 9/11 injury and wrongful death claims and understand the mental anguish these clients have experienced. To receive your free consultation with our legal team, call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).