Monday, July 24, 2006

Humanitarian Crisis Here In New York City

12,000 people have been affected in this humanitarian crisis that has gone mostly uncovered by the American news media and unmentioned by the politicians whenever they wrap themselves in the tattered flag of 9/11.

I am talking about the men and women who put their own lives at risk to work down in the burning rubble of the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks to search for survivors.

The New York Daily News is running a serious of articles about these men and women. Some have died, many are sick - not one has received an official admission from the government that their illness is 9/11-related. None have received any financial help:

Stephen Johnson is a forgotten victim of 9/11.

The official record carries Johnson as a retired firefighter who passed away after a heart attack and a bout with a lung ailment two years after he left the force. This is because, callously and in disregard of overwhelming evidence, the City of New York has refused to acknowledge even the likelihood that working around the smoldering rubble of the World Trade Center proved fatal to anyone.

But that is precisely what killed Johnson, whose death stands as the earliest Ground Zero fatality from disease for which cause and effect has been established.

And it is precisely what killed Police Officer James Godbee.

And it is precisely what killed Detective James Zadroga.

And it is precisely what killed Emergency Medical Service Paramedic Debbie Reeve.

They were among the 40,000 people who pulled together in the drive to restore New York's footing after 9/11. Today, more than 12,000 members of that brave army are ill because they were exposed to the toxic cloud that hovered over what became known as The Pile.

Officials falsely assured them the air was safe. Most were not provided with or did not wear respiratory protection.

The vast majority of the sick suffered damage to their respiratory tracts from breathing air thick with particles, including concrete dust, pulverized glass and asbestos. The materials, in effect, burned the air passages, causing inflamed sinuses, bronchitis and reactive airways dysfunction syndrome, or RADS, an irritant-induced asthma.

A smaller number of Ground Zero responders contracted even more serious illnesses, and some died. How many developed their conditions as a consequence of working at The Pile cannot now be established, and medical experts are skeptical about proving a causal relationship in most cases.

But there can be no reasonable doubt that Ground Zero service cost Johnson, Godbee, Zadroga and Reeve their lives. Where Johnson and Reeve are concerned, the FDNY's top physicians, Drs. Kerry Kelly and David Prezant, say they believe this is so. The evidence is just as strong for Godbee and Zadroga.

It is long past time to set the record straight about fatalities among the forgotten victims of 9/11 — to honor those who have died, to keep faith with history and to provide the sick with the fullest information.

It's time for Mayor Bloomberg to recognize Johnson, Godbee, Zadroga and Reeve as heroes who died from illnesses sustained in the line of duty, and to express New York's gratitude to their loved ones.

It's time for the mayor, upon whom we have called to lead a campaign for all forgotten victims of 9/11, to declare that New York owes the Johnson, Godbee, Zadroga and Reeve families every possible benefit — and to order city lawyers to stop unconscionably fighting against giving the families their due.

It's time to confront what happened to Johnson, Godbee, Zadroga and Reeve in the knowledge that medical experts say others may well develop serious, even fatal, illnesses as the 9/11 health disaster unfolds. Let them not be forgotten, too.

Preznit Bush and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani love to appear at photo ops with cops and firemen and remind voters of their supposed "bravery" and "magnificence" in the days after the 9/11 attacks. Giuliani in particular has used 9/11 as a springboard for his future political career on the national stage. But you never hear from these two politicians how thousands of men and women who responded to the 9/11 attacks at the WTC are sick, dying, or already dead from 9/11-related illnesses.

And you won't ever hear that from them. Bush and Giuliani are men who love to talk about "supporting the troops" or "giving respect to first responders," but you'll also note that the governments these politicians ran during the crisis lied to the first responders about the environmental conditions down at Ground Zero. According to the Associated Press, the Environmental Protection Agency's internal watchdog said White House officials pressured the agency to assure the public that the air in New York City was safe to breathe after the World Trade Center collapse because they wanted to reopen the stock market and Wall Street business operations as well as assure the world that the United States was mostly undaunted by the attacks.

And so both the people working down at Ground Zero and the residents of the area were assured their health was not at risk even though officials at the EPA knew differently. Preznit Bush and Mayor Guiliani are both responsible for the lies passed on to the public and for the health affects this deception caused. One might even say, given that the government's these men ran at the time knew people were being put at risk, that both of these men are murderers. Some may say that is too harsh an assessment, but how else would you characterize two politicians who decide it is more important to get Wall Street up and running than protect the people working at Ground Zero and the residents in lower Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn?

The Daily News got Mayor Michael Bloomberg to pledge that he would do everything he could to make sure the first responders sickened, dying, or dead from 9/11-related illnesses will be taken care of by the city within the limits of what it can afford. This promise is worth nothing from a mayor who lowered the starting salary of cops and fire personnel in New York City in order to be able to afford to pay for the since abandoned construction of the New York Jets west side stadium.

What the Daily News and other media outlets need to do is get to the bottom of a) Who ordered the EPA to tell the public that the air in NYC was safe to breathe after the 9/11 attacks b) Who decided the bottom line of Wall Street was more important than the lives of thousands of Ground Zero workers and hundreds of thousands of New York City residents c) Make sure that every erson whose health has been affected by 9/11 or whose health will be affected in the future is taken care of financially.

If I were a family member of one of these sickened, dying, or dead first responders , I would start out by personally suing Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA director who went on TV and told the public the air was safe to breathe in the days after the WTC collapse when internal EPA reports showed differently. On February 3, 2006, Judge Deborah A. Batts allowed a class action lawsuit to proceed against Christine Todd Whitman for making misleading statements in the aftermath of the WTC collapse about the saftey of the air. Judge Batts called Whitman's actions "conscience-shocking". They certainly are. But so are George W. Bush's and Rudolph Giuiliani's actions. Both of these men should be made to take responsibility for the misery and deaths their callous actions have caused. That means civil lawsuits certainly and perhaps even criminal lawsuits if it can be proven that these men willfully put people's lives at risk in order to get the business community up and running again.

Our government is supposed to protect us, not willfully harm us. In the days after 9/11 when terrorists had already slaughter thousands of New Yorkers, the governments of the United States and New York City added to the death toll. Five years after 9/11, we can already see the number of people affected by 9/11 illnesses. Think about what the numbers are going to be like in ten, fifteen, and twenty years.

This is a scandal in the core of the Big Apple that may be bigger than Katrina.
That'a a great comparison to Katrina, Howard. This was willful negligence on the part of government officials that has injured and killed human beings. It is not what we expect from our gov't and the people responsible for this must be held accountable. I think the Daily News is going to keep hammering away at this issue. I hope other news media outlets pick up on it.
Bloomberg will help "within limits of what the city can afford?"

It's remarkable that the city can afford to ignore real heroism.
It really is unconscionable. I just don't understand how these politicians can pay lip service to firemen, cops, and soldiers for keeping us safe and then screw them when it comes time to take care of the injured and dead. But it happens all the time, of course. How many Iraqi war veterans are homeless? How many Iraqi war veterans suffering from stress are receiving help?

We always want to salute our cops, firemen and soldiers so long as it doesn't cost us money. But when it comes time to pay a decent salary, provide decent benefits or provide care for the injured or compensation for the families of the dead, that's when we forget about them.
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