Two decades after the September 11th terrorist attacks, it is still having a profound and often devastating effect on the first responders who rushed to Ground Zero in New York City. Many of these individuals are now dealing with serious health problems, including mesothelioma, that have arisen as a result of their selfless actions on that fateful day.
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen. It is most commonly diagnosed in people who have been exposed to asbestos, a material that was widely used in construction and other industries prior to the 1980s.
Asbestos exposure can occur in a variety of ways, but for first responders who worked at Ground Zero, it is thought to have come from the dust and debris that was generated when the Twin Towers collapsed. Inhaling this contaminated air puts them at risk for developing mesothelioma and other respiratory diseases.
Many first responders did not start showing symptoms of ill health until years after 9/11, making it difficult to determine how many people have been affected. However, a recent study found that almost 70% of firefighters who worked at Ground Zero have developed some form of respiratory disease, and mesothelioma rates among first responders are estimated to be up to 10 times higher than the general population.
The long-term effects of 9/11
For many first responders, the physical and psychological toll of 9/11 has been immense. In addition to those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, many more are dealing with chronic respiratory problems, anxiety, and depression.
The financial burden has also been significant. Many first responders have had to give up their jobs as a result of their health problems, and the cost of treatment can be prohibitive. According to one estimate, the lifetime cost of care for a single mesothelioma patient is approximately $2.4 million.
The 9/11 first responders bill
In 2019, the U.S. government finally passed legislation that provides financial support to first responders who are dealing with health problems related to 9/11. The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund provides compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs associated with 9/11-related illnesses.
While this is a welcome development, it is important to note that the Fund only covers expenses up to a certain point. For many first responders, the financial burden of their illness will continue long after the Fund runs out of money.
How you can help
If you know a first responder who was affected by 9/11, there are several ways you can help. First, make sure they are aware of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and any other resources that may be available to them.
Second, offer your support in any way you can. This could include helping with everyday tasks, providing transportation to doctor’s appointments, or simply being there to listen.
And finally, consider making a donation to an organization that supports first responders and their families. The FealGood Foundation is one such organization, and 100% of donations go directly to help those affected by 9/11-related illnesses.
The September 11th terrorist attacks were a tragedy that affected us all. But for the first responders who rushed to Ground Zero, the effects have been felt long after the dust has settled. If you know someone who was affected, make sure they are getting the help and support they need. And consider making a donation to an organization that is working to support these brave men and women.