Toxins from the wreckage of the former World Trade Center continue their toxic streak 20 years later, causing serious illnesses and deaths. He is not the only first responder to participate in the rescue efforts after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; Thousands of citizens were also affected who volunteered to help clean up or return to work in the downtown area shortly after.
Everyone from the security guards to the office workers returned to work after assurances from the government that the cloudy air was safe to breathe. People questioned the assurance as the air quality was very poor. However, how bad it really was, it was only after people got sick that they realized it. The government identified dozens of diseases linked to toxic exposure, including respiratory problems and more than 60 types of cancer.
In 2010, Congress passed a law providing health care coverage and financial compensation for those diagnosed with one of the recognized illnesses who can prove presence in the lower Manhattan affected area during 9/11 or the months following. . The bill was expanded and reauthorized several times, most recently in 2019.
Chris Sorrentino is one of the people covered by the bill. He worked as a specialist on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in several blocks of Ground Zero.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, he was on a Brooklyn bus that got stuck at the exit of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel due to a traffic jam. Unbeknownst to him, the gridlock was caused by the first plane to hit the World Trade Center. Eventually, the driver unloaded the passengers from the bus and Sorrentino headed to Wall Street.
“I heard a plane screaming. I looked up and I saw a giant jetliner, a passenger jetliner,” he told The Epoch Times.
It was too little, he thought.
“It’s not going to be good.”
As the plane disappeared from view, he heard an explosion and saw a huge cloud of smoke and fire all over the buildings in the area. The second tower was hit.
He began walking towards the area, still unsure what was going on. He met some colleagues who also worked on the floor. They told him it was the second plane to hit.
“It’s like a war,” said one of them.
He still decided to go to the exchange, but got a call on his way to head uptown instead.
They headed to FDR Drive, which was open for people to walk north. On the way, he saw a man, possibly a government employee, with a satellite phone. Cell reception was closed at this time, so he asked if he could call his wife.
“Hurry up,” said the man.
His wife was watching what was happening in the news. He tells her to take his boat, which is parked south of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Brooklyn, and come to the South Street Seaport on the west side of lower Manhattan.
She had never sailed the boat alone before, but she agreed to do so.
As Sorrentino and his allies marched towards the port, the towers collapsed.
He said, “You saw that the clouds of dust were moving in every street and street.”
Although they were already close to the western edge of Manhattan, from the towers across the width of the island, they were still covered from head to toe with soot.
“You can’t see 50 feet in front of you,” Sorrentino said. “How fat was that.”
People immediately wrapped clothes over their faces, as the cloud was “choking” to breathe, he said.
After about two hours of calling his wife came. The pier was already crowded with people trying to jump on any boat.
“Just take a quick broom, don’t even wait,” he shouted at his wife.
He jumped on the boat and made another pass, picking up about 10 people.
“We left the island,” he said.
On their way to Brooklyn, they were stopped by the Coast Guard for who they were, as the entire area was to be cordoned off.
“My wife, I think, got under the radar before she could shut it down,” he said.
Back to Work
Sorrentino and thousands of his colleagues returned to work the following Tuesday. At the time there was pressure to reopen the stock exchange not to resume trading, but also to show defiance in the face of attacks.
Christine Todd Whitman, then head of the Environmental Protection Agency and former governor of New Jersey, declared that the air quality was acceptable for people returning to the area.
“Governor Whitman assured everyone that the air quality was fine and nothing was wrong,” Sorrentino said. “Which was 100 percent a lie.”
He said it was no secret to anyone visiting the city that the air quality was “not acceptable”.
Dust was always present, it was impossible to clean completely. Safai Karamcharis were taking to the streets every day, but that was not enough.
“It looked like snow almost every morning,” he said.
Apart from this, the fire below ground zero continued to burn for about three months.
“There were still plumes of smoke coming out every day,” Sorrentino said. “It was the most pungent smell you would ever want to smell in your life.”
Many of those who experienced it, including Sorrentino, described it as a “smell of death.”
He said it creeps in like asbestos and rotten meat and fills lower Manhattan “for a good three weeks to a month”.
He heard from other workers, building workers had to constantly replace the air filters in their ventilation systems because they were clogging up quickly.
He said that the smell was so disturbing that some people got water in their eyes.
Still, it appears that many people do not understand the full weight of the consequences of inhaling it.
“I certainly didn’t look at it long term,” Sorrentino said.
Looking back, he didn’t even know that the regular staff there knew what an N95 mask was. He said many were wearing simple cloth masks, such as those handed out by the National Guard.
“I would say that I know well over a hundred people who died or got cancer from 9/11,” he said.
Over the years, whenever he heard about someone getting sick, he said, “We must be lucky.”
Then in 2018 his stomach started hurting. He went to doctor after doctor, but no one could understand what was wrong. It got to the point where doctors considered sending her to a psychiatrist, thinking the pain was psychological.
He finally had an upward cystoscopy in 2019, which revealed an aggressive bladder cancer. He agreed to undergo an on-the-spot biopsy without anesthesia, which was the “most painful thing” of his life, he said. He underwent advanced bladder surgery and began a grueling recovery.
He was told that if he had been diagnosed a few months later, there was nothing doctors could do for him.
Sorrentino was able to register for the 9/11 compensation fund, because his type of cancer is one of the diseases associated with toxins.
Although it is not required, many people file claims with compensation funds through a law firm, as in the case of Barash and McGarry, in the case of Sorrentino.
The firm, which represents more than 25,000 clients with claims against the fund, used to have a small practice of handling work injury claims mostly by firefighters. However, with offices less than three blocks from Ground Zero, the firm was radically changed by the attacks, according to the firm’s managing partner, Michael Barash.
On the day of the attacks, Barash was in a gym on Vesey Street, about a block from the towers, when he heard a “massive explosion”, he told The Epoch Times.
Somebody said a plane hit the World Trade Center.
“We walked to the corner of Broadway and Vesey Street and we watched in horror as people were leaping out of the building,” he said.
As the fire ate its way through the tower, another plane was hit.
“Holy cow! We are under attack,” felt Barash.
He ran back to his office.
“Get out of here. We are at war,” he told everyone.
He lived with a colleague whose wife worked at a tower. The man was not sure that his wife had come to work that morning and was trying to contact her.
“After all, the doorbell rang and it was his wife,” Barash said.
When the first tower started collapsing, they were all standing there watching the horrific scene.
“We better get out of here,” he felt.
They ran down 18 flights of stairs.
“By the time we got to our lobby, the dust from the first explosion was pouring in,” he said.
They ran north.
Barash and his co-workers returned to their offices a month after power was restored.
Barash said the outage saved them from being exposed to the worst contamination, but when they came back the place was still “absolutely rickety.”
“Even if the windows were closed, it would come through the air conditioning system,” he said.
He said the smell was so irritating that some people would have nose bleeds.
Almost half of his office ended up with health problems, from respiratory problems to various types of cancer. Some died. Barash himself had passed away from prostate cancer.
His firm joined the first wave of victim compensation, representing nearly 1,000 clients. The initial program was designed to protect airlines from liability for attacks. Claims against the fund were placed on the condition of waiving the right to sue the airlines.
The first wave ended in 2004 after paying $7 billion.
“But people haven’t stopped getting sick,” Barash said.
After back and forth on scope and funding, Congress reopened the Compensation Fund and Health Program through the 2010 James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. It was named after one of Barash’s clients, NYPD Detective James Zadroga, who participated in the 9/11 rescue and recovery efforts and died of pulmonary fibrosis in 2006.
The 2019 reauthorization extended the program to 2090. At the time, the Victim Compensation Fund had already paid out some $5 billion under the Zadroga Act and was projected to cost $10 billion (PDF) by 2029. The health program paid out about $1.5 billion by 2019, based on an earlier estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (PDF).
The law limits attorney’s fees to 10 percent of the compensation award.
Barash said, “The government did the wrong thing when it told us the air was safe, but…
This News Originally From – The Epoch Times