2006-09-13 / Editorials

WTC Casualties Continue, Should Be Counted

Nearly 3,000 people died when fanatics drove passenger airplanes into the towers on Sept. 11, 2001. But the count doesn't stop there. A study by Mount Sinai Hospital indicates that some 70 percent of more than 9,000 first responders-police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians- and an army of volunteers who toiled at Ground Zero for months afterward are today showing symptoms of serious diseases. People who, either because it was their job to do so or because they chose to work at the site, whatever their reason, are becoming sicker and sicker with every day that passes. Young people, healthy and strong on Sept. 10, 2001, now have breathing difficulties usually associated with much older, sicker individuals. Nonsmokers show lung damage typical of

lifelong tobacco users. Stomach ailments, kidney disease, disfiguring skin lesions and a plethora of other pesky and pernicious afflictions have been visited on those who worked on or near the heap of smoldering rubble called "The Pile" in the weeks and months following 9/11. The death rate among the workers and volunteers keeps rising accordingly.

Only today, five years after the towers fell, are some responses and some support forthcoming for the ailing and dying who toiled at Ground Zero. It took five years for the Mount Sinai report to come out, giving official credence to what was readily apparent to anyone connected to the sad events of 9/11. Some elected officials have been pushing for aid to first responders almost before the ashes cooled, but

others have remained obdurate, for reasons we can only guess at. There can be no question that anyone who worked on The Pile or at Ground Zero risked-and more than likely sustained-serious, lasting damage to physical and mental wellbeing. Those who are dying today and whose ranks will inexorably swell as the months and years go by are just as surely casualties of the 9/11 attacks as those who perished on that date. To deny them aid and comfort--and to investigate why they were not issued respirators and other equipment to protect them from the toxic dust cloud that hovered over the site for months--is an insult to them, their families and those who preceded them in death at the hand of our enemies.

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