[Fewer than 3,000 people were killed by the 9/11 attack and most of their families were compensated out of a federal fund after the event. Little publicized or even recognized until most recently is the fact that somewhere between 20 and 40 thousand workers — many volunteers from far states — were subject to horrendous materials breathed into their lungs during the cleanup of the basement of the twin towers called “the pile” by those working there.

Workers were given almost casual warnings to protect their lungs at the start of this project by the Bush federal cabinet officer, Christie Whitman, but as Congressman Jerrold Nadler has pointed out:

“Christie Whitman repeatedly declared the air safe, and now thousands of people are sick, and some have died, from World Trade Center contamination,” said Rep. Nadler. “To add insult to injury, she just went on 60 Minutes and tried to blame everybody else for her misdeeds.”


Furthermore, responsibility after the men started the cleanup fell to NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who had foolishly located his command center in one of the the Trade Center buildings following the first attack there in 1993). Giuliani for his part was more concerned with avoiding liability for injury to the workers on the pile than caring for their health and welfare. One of my students who had come from his space center job in Florida as a volunteer and who has been physically impacted by this work and who is trying to get a new life together by college studies, shared with our class a page and a half letter from Giuliani to the workers with one sentence of thanks followed by paragraphs of threats directed at any who sought “fraudulently” to benefit from their labors. Actually there WAS great fraud connected with the cleanup — major companies fully compensated for the effort had subcontracted the work out to others who had stiffed the workers with failures to pay them for part or all of their hours worked! This student is working on a book with a Pulitzer Prize winner to tell this grim tale — he hopes to become a lawyer down the line. Watch for this unfolding.

It is good at long last to see a NYC mayor making some effort to repair the damage done. In addition to asbestos, the World Trade Center had housed tanks of a number of toxic substances mixed in with the ashes and dust (in addition to the human remains). Thousands of the workers have been tested and found to have lungs poisoned and diminished by what they inhaled there. Some may have died already from the effects; others scattered back around the country may not have access to the NYC supports that we hope will emerge now more than five years after the fact. Ed Kent]



Bloomberg Seeks U.S. Aid for Treatment of 9/11 Illnesses
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Published: March 22, 2007

WASHINGTON, March 21 — Testifying at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pleaded for at least $150 million in annual federal aid to monitor and treat thousands of people who became ill after being exposed to dust and debris at ground zero.

The mayor also called for the creation of a special fund to compensate those who became sick, urging that the city and its contractors be protected from potentially ruinous liability as a result of lawsuits brought by rescue and recovery workers who have argued that they were not adequately protected from the environmental hazards left by the World Trade Center’s collapse.

Senators from both parties expressed sympathy for the mayor’s arguments, which were delivered at the start of a three-hour hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

A panel appointed by Mr. Bloomberg last month put the total cost of evaluating and treating everyone potentially affected by the trade center attack at $392.6 million a year. The panel called for the federal government to provide, at a minimum, $153 million a year to sustain health programs run by the Mount Sinai Medical Center, the Fire Department and Bellevue Hospital Center.

Mr. Bloomberg told the committee’s chairman, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, that he supported a bill they introduced that would provide $1.9 billion for 9/11 health monitoring and treatment between 2008 and 2012.

Mr. Bloomberg noted that more than 8,000 workers had joined lawsuits accusing the city and some 150 contractors of neglecting to protect them during rescue and recovery operations at ground zero. “The city came together after 9/11, but this drawn-out and divisive litigation is undermining that unity,” he said.

Congress has capped the city’s potential liability from the 9/11 attacks at $350 million and set up a $1 billion fund to insure the city and its contractors from suits arising out of the ground zero cleanup.

But at a news conference after the hearing, Mr. Bloomberg said of the liability cap that “there are people who question whether that law would stand up” if challenged in court. He also called the $1 billion insufficient.

If Congress created a compensation fund and gave immunity to the city and its contractors from liability, the city would transfer the $1 billion from the insurance fund to the compensation fund, the mayor said.

After the hearing, Mrs. Clinton told reporters that the compensation fund was an important proposal, but she stopped short of endorsing it.

Mr. Bloomberg, a Republican, was surrounded at the hearing mostly by Democratic lawmakers from New York who have sought more aid for 9/11-related health problems. The two Republican senators present asked gentle questions.

Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, the committee’s ranking Republican, said the mayor’s request “adds up to quite a bit of money.” He told the mayor, “I will be giving you a request to more carefully delineate and more concisely delineate the dollars that you’re talking about.”

Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler, who was co-chairman of the mayor’s panel, told Mr. Enzi that the money was not for new programs, but only for existing ones. The mayor told Mr. Enzi that “every single penny” would be accounted for.

Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and a physician, said he did not doubt that there were “a lot of pulmonary problems associated with large particulate intake” at ground zero, but he asked the mayor, “Is there a point at which this stops in terms of a federal obligation?”

Mr. Coburn then quickly added, “Rather than have a yearly appropriation for this, why don’t we set up an endowed trust?” The mayor later told reporters that he was open to the idea, but said, “The real issue is: Can we get money every year?”

Doctors from all three 9/11 health programs, as well as Dr. James M. Melius, an occupational health expert, and Jeanne Mager Stellman, an authority on the exposure of military personnel to herbicides used in the Vietnam War, also testified.

After his appearance at the hearing, the mayor met privately with Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, and Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney and Vito J. Fossella of New York and Christopher Shays of Connecticut to discuss 9/11 health issues.

He also met with the House speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, and Representatives Charles B. Rangel and Peter T. King of New York, to discuss the city’s legislative agenda.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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