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The Dying Continues

The Dying Continues

Seventeen years ago, almost exactly as I sit typing this terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. This was followed shortly after by a plane crashing into the Pentagon. The passengers of United Airways Flight 93 stopped a similar attack on the Capitol building in Washington, DC. They did that at the cost of their lives.

America was suddenly at war with an enemy few really understood. We’re still at war, and still many people don’t seem to understand with who or why.

I’m not going to go into that today, because today is a day to reflect on the start of the current war, not to discuss it’s tortuous route ever since.

The attacks on the WTC killed almost 3,000 people including people in the towers, police, fire, EMS, and the people on the airplanes.

That was just the first day. I say that because people who were in the area where the towers stood that day are still dying and will continue to die for years to come.

Still Counting: 9/11’s toxic legacy haunts first responders

It’s not too long an article and has a lot of good information. There is some use of the “Retrospectroscope” to talk about what was done that shouldn’t have been and wasn’t done that should have been.

As a country we’ve learned a lot about emergency response to a large scale terrorist event. The people who died that day and are dying to this day paid for those lessons with their lives. Another part of the cost of this war that we are in.

Thousands of firefighters, police, construction workers and people who worked or lived near Ground Zero have become sick since then. Hundreds have since died after breathing in a witch’s brew of asbestos and other toxins. Counting the dead will continue for years to come.


“I think it’s in some ways our Chernobyl. The difference with Chernobyl is that there, vast swatches of land are not habitable because of radiation,” Dr. Jacqueline Moline, director of the Queens World Trade Center Clinical Center, said. “Chernobyl was not a terrorist attack. Most terrorist attacks don’t have a death toll that has a lasting impact in terms of health impact.”

When the World Trade Center tumbled, it didn’t simply fall to the ground or vanish. The conflagration filled the air with toxic particles.

“You’re talking 220 stories of office building on top of the other buildings that collapsed, with computers, fluorescent lightbulbs, phones, desks, metal chairs,” said Michael O’Connell, a 25-year-old firefighter on 9/11. “All of that was incinerated into pure dust. All we found was concrete, steel and rebar. You didn’t find a telephone, a lightbulb, a chair. Nothing.”

A now deceased friend of mine was there and took time to send out an email a couple of days later while he was finally taking a break. He described a landscape from another planet. Something not to be believed. Yet it was all real.

Within a few years, he too was sick and he died about five years ago. He never mentioned it, but reading this article, I’m confident that he died as a result of the toxic mix in the air.

Someone else I know less well will soon die from stomach cancer. I have other friends who were there in the first days and I fear that some of them will suffer and died as well.

Another friend worked for the New York City Office of Emergency Management. His office was in the WTC complex and he was right there when the planes hit. He didn’t evacuate until right before the towers fell and he almost didn’t get out alive.

He now has Sacoidosis and is waiting and hoping.

If you were at the World Trade Center and don’t know about the World Trade Center Health Program, then go to the link and read. If you qualify, sign up.

The dying started on September 11, 2001. It will continue for decades.

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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.