Sixteen years ago, 102 minutes changed many of our lives, forever. While too many lost their lives and their loved ones mourn them, we remember the heroes who ran toward danger to rescue others. We remember those who were at work just starting their day. We remember those who boarded flights for vacation, for business and because it was their job to be on those aircraft that day.
We remember all 2,977 who were killed because of the terror attack.
We remember all of the servicemen and women who gave their lives in defense of our country and its freedoms.
We remember them all.
The events of that beautiful, crisp and sunny morning are permanently etched in the memories of all Americans, and particularly in the brains of survivors including emergency responders, secondary responders, and the entire lower Manhattan community who lived or worked in the shadow of the World Trade Center.
I met Mary Fetchet, founder of VOICES of September 11, six years ago when she spoke at a Connecticut Counseling Association conference regarding the 10th anniversary of the Terrorist attack. We reconnected through my recovery work with the Newtown community and I have been honored to present at several VOICES conferences and particularly the Annual Informational Forums for survivors.
I had the privilege of learning from experts in all aspect of the 9-11 recovery process and was humbled by stories of survivors from 9-11 and the Boston Marathon. However, the most concerning aspect was learning about the growing rate of cancers, lung disease and cardiac diseases diagnosed in 9-11 survivors because of their exposure to toxins and inhalation of super-heated asbestos, ground glass, ground wallboard and other debris on 9-11 and subsequent days, weeks and for some months of exposure during the recovery work on “the pile”.
“What was in the air was unholy”
The anger was palpable in the room when medical experts spoke about this. Jon Stewart, comedian and host of The Daily Show is a 9-11 survivor, as he lived in lower Manhattan, is a passionate, vocal advocate for the rights of 9-11 survivors. He encouraged those in attendance to speak up and to participate in the WTC recovery programs: “What was in the air was unholy”.
For those who develop these diseases, it is particularly difficult to process and accept. Many of them were emergency responders – police, fire, EMS – they are the selfless helpers who ran toward the World Trade Center and are now faced with the unfair, cruel repercussions. Their quality of life has been greatly impacted and their expected life expectancy is finite and shortened.
Perhaps his voice as a celebrity will encourage survivors who are experiencing symptoms to come forward, as there is reluctance and perhaps even fear to do so. If you know someone or are impacted personally, you can contact VOICES of September 11th and their staff will help you register for the WTC Health Program.