20 years later, the shadow of cancer still hangs over Ground Zero

While life has been on its way for years in lower Manhattan, for some, the shadow of September 11 still looms. Yvonne Phang is professor of economics at Borough of Manhattan Community College, located two blocks from the former site of the Twin Towers. In 2001, she returned to work in the area just three weeks after the towers collapsed. 16 years later, he was discovered to have cancer.

68 cancers recognized as linked to September 11

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Yvonne Phang, professor of economics at Borough of Manhattan Community College and victim of September 11. © All rights reserved

“In 2017, I developed breast cancer. I had a double mastectomy, 4 and a half months of chemotherapy and daily radiotherapy sessions. I had not connected my illness to September 11 at all because it was was so long ago. A year after my treatment, a friend heard an advertisement on the radio about the Victims Compensation Fund. She called me. She said, ‘Look, you were so close to Ground Zero why aren’t you looking?’ ”

►►► To read : But what did George W. Bush do after leaving school in Sarasota on September 11, 2001?

Yvonne then finds out that she is eligible for the World Trade Center Health Program and victim compensation funds. “JThought it was only for firefighters. At the time, civilians were not informed at all. It’s still the case now“, explains the professor.

Today she knows it. The Clouds of ash and toxic debris that have hovered over Manhattan for weeks are responsible for his illness. The World Trade Center Health Program has established a list of 68 cancers recognized as linked to September 11. Breast cancer is one of them.

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Dust spreading through the streets of New York on September 11, 2001 © Getty

Lead, asbestos, kerosene, concrete sprayed in the air

Billions of tons of World Trade Center building materials burned for 99 days at the Ground Zero site. They released unprecedented amounts of chemicals into the air, including dioxins, ambient and other carcinogens.

At the time, the government said the air was safe. New York City firefighters participate in search operations at the Twin Towers site for weeks, often without a protective mask. Rich Roeill was one of them. 20 years later, he is also paying a heavy price.

After September 11, I got sick

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Rich Roeill, a retired New York City firefighter, in treatment to detoxify his blood at a New York clinic. © All rights reserved

After September 11, I got sick. I had breathing problems. I had a heart attack in 2016. I also had memory problems. I had my blood tested. And, I had extremely high levels of lead and cadmium. These products come from plumbing, light bulbs, computers, telephones and cables that were in the World Trade Center and have been reduced to dust“, explains Rich Roeill.

100,000 sick people

Since 2001, an estimated 100,000 people have developed a disease related to September 11. More than 3000 lost their lives.

Ten years ago, several studies pointed to the dust clouds that increase the risk of disease. Michaël Weiden, chief medical officer at the New York City Fire Department, is one of the first to study their toxicity: “What we did in the fire department was look at the cancer rate in firefighters who had been exposed and we compared it to the cancer rates of all New Yorkers in general. And, we discovered that for some cancers there was sometimes an increase of 10, 15 or even 20% “, explains the pulmonologist.

►►► Twenty years after the September 11 attacks, a firefighter from Charleroi recounts the links created with his colleagues in New York

In the lobby of the New York City Fire Department, a large blackboard hangs on the wall. One can read there the 270 names of the rescuers and firefighters of the department who died as a result of an illness linked to September 11. And, this doctor expects the list to grow.

You will notice that he left a lot of free space, because we are expecting a lot of disease for the next 20 or 30 years.“, predicts Michael Weiden.

A new wave of diseases

New York also fears a new wave of illness among neighborhood residents. Two primary schools were located in the exhibition area. Twenty years ago young children between the ages of 6 and 12 came into contact with an extremely toxic environment.

Lila Nordstrom was 17 years old on September 11, 2001. A month after the towers collapsed, she returned to school. His school is 700 meters from Ground Zero. Debris from the World Trade Center is stored a few meters from the building.

Students had sore throats, headaches, and nosebleeds

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Lila Nordstrom, author of the book “Some kids left behind” © All rights reserved

Very soon, some students started to see bleeding noses, headaches, sore throats, and everyone had a chronic cough. We couldn’t get into the nurse’s office. There were 60 people in line. At that point, the board of education told us that this would all be temporary, that it would not have a long term impact and that we should pretend everything is fine.“, enraged the 37-year-old young woman.

Lila has since fought for student rights. With her association, she tries to find them all to inform them.

“There are a lot of people my age who left town after 9/11. We went to college and then New York is expensive so they moved and a lot of people didn’t. heard about helpers because in the media there is a lot of talk about firefighters and rescuers. But we don’t really talk about residents. So the idea is to inform them, to tell them that they also have access to medical programs”, Insists the former student.

Federal funds accessible until 2090

Barasch and McGarry law firm represents more than 200,000 members of the 9/11 community (firefighters, residents, students, workers and faculty). On his website, he urges civilians to collect the information they need to access federal funds, even if they are in good health before the evidence wears off with the years.

To be eligible for the World Trade Center Health program and compensation funds for victims, you must prove that you were in the exhibition area. And that becomes more and more difficult. Often it takes two or three witnesses who were with the victim. It is necessary to specify where they were but also what they were doing and these testimonies disappear over the years.“, explains Dominique Penson lawyer at Barasch and McGarry

Former US President Donald Trump has extended the deadline for filing applications from 2020 to 2090.

69 years of reprieve for the victims of the diseases of September 11 which have so far killed more than the attacks.

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