Medical Help is Available For Former Students, Teachers, Residents Sickened After 9/11


It’s not only first responders who became sick due to the September 11th terrorist attack in lower Manhattan. Thousands of students, teachers and other people working or living in the area were also exposed to toxins from the Twin Towers. At a news conference in Chinatown yesterday, an attorney who has represented thousands of 9/11 victims, the United Federation of Teachers and community leaders helped to get the word out: Medical help is available.

During the event at the Confucius Plaza housing complex on the Bowery, attorney Michael Barasch said he’s now representing four teachers with breast cancer and nine former students who attended schools near Ground Zero. The students have a variety of illnesses, including cancer and lung diseases.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Barasch. “This is a growing and serious health epidemic and it is so important for anyone who lived, worked or spent time in that area to understand that if they are sick, there is a presumption that it was caused by their exposure to the World Trade Center toxins.”

Also in attendance yesterday were local elected officials, local district leaders Jenny Low and Justin Yu and Michael Mulgrew of the teachers’ union. They wanted to make sure everyone in lower Manhattan knows that they may be eligible for health care and compensation through the extension of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The first in a series of 9/11 health forums will be held Saturday, Nov. 18 at P.S. 124, 40 Division St., 3-5 p.m. The event, which the Confucius Plaza Tenant Association is helping to sponsor, will offer information in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. The World Trade Center Health Program covers all of lower Manhattan below East Houston Street, as well as Brooklyn Heights. To find out if you’re eligible, have a look at this map.  Barasch urged anyone experiencing health issues to get a checkup through the program.

michele lent hirsch

Michele Lent Hirsch, now 32, is among those who became sick after 9/11. On September 11th, she was a student at Stuyvesant High School, located just a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center site. It wasn’t until 2010 that she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Hirsch told the New York Post, “Cancer is so terrifying to deal with when you’re a young person… They sent us back to a school that was not safe. We were exposed to toxins that were physically harmful. You don’t send students back to a toxic school before it’s safe.” Stuyvesant re-opened just a month after the attacks.

The United Federation of Teachers began its outreach at a dozen schools in the area and is now contacting parent-teacher associations to find former students who may have been downtown during and after 9/11. Officials said people are surprised to learn they may be eligible for medical help. There’s a common misperception that only first responders are covered.

Barasch represented James Zadroga, the NYPD detective who developed pulmonary fibrosis as a result of his exposure to toxins at the World Trade Center site. His death eventually prompted Congress to approve the Zadroga Act.



Former “Fort Pitt” Firefighter Dies From 9/11-Related Illness

Friends and family gathered on Long Island yesterday to remember a firefighter who worked at Ladder 18 on the Lower East Side for 40 years.

Robert “Fort Pitt” Newman was a 9/11 hero. He responded to Ground Zero and worked at the scene for many months after the tragedy. In 2011, Newman was diagnosed with lung cancer, which doctors say was a result of his work during 9/11. He retired from the fire department in 2005 and died last week.

News 12 Long Island covered the funeral in Farmingdale. Hugh Mettham, a retired Ladder 18 firefighter said of Newman, “He was, he was a legend. A lot of times we called him the old curmudgeon, but he really had a lot of experience and really just brought a smile to everybody’s faces in the firehouse.”

News 12 reported: “Newman’s friends say he turned down multiple opportunities for promotions during his years with Ladder 18, saying he just wanted to stay with his firehouse and help the folks of the Lower East Side.”

The Daily News noted that he’s the fourth firefighter to die this year from a 9/11-related illness. 126 firefighters have died as a result of Ground Zero illnesses in the past 15 years.

Newman was a Vietnam War veteran.


Remembering 9/11

Photo by Nelson Cruz, taken from Division and Ludlow streets.

Thanks to Nelson Cruz who snapped this photo from Division and Ludlow streets last night, on the eve of this year’s 9/11 anniversary.  You can see the “Tribute in Light” over the Lower East Side tenements and the new World Trade Center tower rising in the distance. This morning, New York City and the world will pause to remember the terror attacks, which took place 11 years ago.

Angel Orensanz Foundation Invites Participation in 9/11 Commemoration

Many neighborhood cultural institutions are commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday with special exhibitions and/or programs. The Angel Orensanz Foundation is presenting, “3,000 Pebbles in Memoriam – A 9/11 Anniversary Tribute.”

Here’s the concept and invitation:

We earnestly invite you to come to this 160-year old building in the heart of Lower Manhattan and to participate in a simple, poetic act aimed at mourning the death of 3,000 people ten years ago now. Another 3,000 pebbles will be waiting at the entrance for visitors to come, pick them up, and place them indoors, on the floor of the Foundation. By progressively piling them up, a symbolic, geometric pattern will be shaped. A silent, evocative and reflexive gesture with roots in many religious traditions that is aimed at bringing people together.

At the same time, visitors are welcome to view a multi-media installation created by Angel Orensanz in the aftermath of 9/11.  The Angel Orensanz Foundation, 172 Norfolk, will be open on Sunday, September 11 from 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

A Glimpse of the 9/11 Memorial

A week from Sunday, two presidents, many other dignitaries and the families of victims will commemorate the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. For the first time, the ceremony will take place at the 9/11 Memorial, which is comprised of two fountains built on the footprints of the Twin Towers. The next day, September 12th, the memorial opens to the public.

This week, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver invited community leaders and reporters to tour the memorial.  In remarks beforehand, he said “I believe we have created a fitting and profound memorial… We have emerged (from 9/11) stronger, more resilient and more unified than ever… The recovery is not just about buildings. It’s about the people downtown.”