It goes without saying that September 11th left a scar on the US that our country is still healing from 16 years later– especially the families and communities who lost loved ones in the attacks. As time goes by, more and more people have wondered: are we still losing lives to the after effects of the attacks of 9/11?
The toxins from the attacks are linked to many forms of cancer and other diseases. The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) actually covers treatments for 68 forms of cancer. Some of the cancers have shown up a lot, such as ovarian cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, and brain cancer. Rarer forms of cancer are also eligible; the complete list can be seen here.
Stuyvestant, a prestigious public high school five minutes from the World Trade Center, may have been hit especially hard. Many of the remnants of the World Trade Center were stored in barges just 150 yards north of the school, which may have further exposed students and faculty to the toxins. Although it was controversial, Stuyvesant reopened just one month after 9/11.
Since then, a shockingly high number of students and staff have been diagnosed with cancer. Although this number is not confirmed, a retired teacher told the New York Post that, within 10 years, 25 of the 135 faculty members have died of cancer– many of whom were not even fifty years old.
Students, such as Michele Lent Hirsch, who was a senior during the terrorist attacks, have also been appalled at the high incidence of cancer among themselves and their peers. Hirsch, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 25, expresses dismay at the decision to send teenagers into a school full of toxins. She told the New York Post about how frightening it was to cope with a cancer diagnosis so early in life.
Hirsch also wants to spread the word to other people in the area. There are others who were exposed to toxins like her, but may not be aware that their health is in danger, and may not realize that they are eligible for financial assistance.
Lawyer, Michael Barasch, recently announced he’s representing 12 graduated students with cancer or lung disease from Stuyvesant and nearby high schools, as well as various faculty members. However, this is not the first time the issue has come to light. In 2002, one year after the terrorist attack, the school’s ventilation needed to be cleaned out– the lead levels were 30 times the federal limits. Five years after the terrorist attacks, Stuyvesant students petitioned the government to sponsor a study on the potential hazards, as well as a screening and adequate health care for the students who were already exposed to toxins.
The issue keeps growing as time goes by. As more and more students, teachers, and community members receive troubling diagnoses, many look to their schools and city for answers: why were so many teenagers and adults put in a potentially toxic situation, and what can be done now?