Toxins from the rubble of the former World Trade Center continue their poisonous streak even 20 years on, leading to serious ailments and death. It’s not just the first responders who took part in rescue efforts after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; also affected were the tens of thousands of civilians who volunteered to help with the cleanup or returned to work in the downtown area shortly after.
Everyone from security guards to office workers returned to do their jobs following an assurance from the government that the clouded air was safe to breathe. People questioned the assurance, as the air quality was palpably bad. How bad it truly was, though, they realized only after people started getting sick. The government came to recognize dozens of ailments linked to the toxic exposure, including respiratory issues and more than 60 types of cancer.
In 2010, Congress passed a law providing health care coverage and financial compensation to anybody diagnosed with one of the recognized ailments who can prove presence in the lower Manhattan affected area on 9/11 or sometime in the following months. The bill was expanded and reauthorized several times, most recently in 2019.
Chris Sorrentino is one of those covered by the bill. He worked as a specialist on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange several blocks from Ground Zero.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, he was on a bus from Brooklyn, stuck in an exit from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel due to a traffic jam. Unbeknownst to him, the gridlock was caused by the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Eventually, the driver let the passengers off the bus, and Sorrentino started walking toward Wall Street.
“I heard a plane just screaming. I looked up and I saw a huge jetliner, a passenger jetliner,” he told The Epoch Times.
It was way too low, he thought.
“This isn’t going to be good.”
As the plane disappeared from view, he heard an explosion and saw a massive cloud of smoke and flame engulfing all the buildings in the area. The second tower had been struck.
He started to walk toward the area, still unsure what was going on. He met a few colleagues who also worked on the floor. They told him this was the second plane to hit.
“This is like a war,” one of them said.
By Petr Svab