September 11, 2001.
That day the World Trade Towers in Manhattan were hit by two terrorist-directed airplanes that mimicked a doomsday scenario out of Hollywood.
But it was real.
So were the injuries to the thousands of rescuers and cleanup workers who converged at Ground Zero trying to save lives and salvaged what was left.
New York City health officials, Mayor Giuliani, along with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Christine Todd Whitman, all issued assurances that the air was clean and safe to breathe.
"The good news continues to be that air samples we have taken have all been at levels that cause no concern," said the EPA's Whitman five days after the attack.
In reality, an estimated two million tons of dust containing cement, asbestos, glass, lead, and carcinogens circulated in the air around Ground Zero.
Those firefighters, law enforcement, and first responders who sued the city over damages to their health experienced asthma, respiratory illnesses, and eventually cancers.
Discover quotes environment health Dr. Phillip Landrigan from Mount Sinai, who calls it “World Trade Center cough” from inflamed sinuses as the normal respiratory tract defenses were overwhelmed by the particulate matter in the air.
A Settlement- Finally
After two years of negotiations, about 10,000 plaintiffs have reached a settlement of $657.5 million with the city over their illnesses. Everyone must agree to the term to reach that settlement however. If only 95 percent of plaintiffs are in agreement, the settlement shrinks to $575 million.
The federal government has set aside $1 billion for such payments. The money went into the WTC Captive Insurance Co. that was created to shield the city and private contractors against liability lawsuits.
The settlement may mark an end to years of litigation against the city and private companies for failing to warn and protect workers with respirators.
The amount each is to receive depends on the severity of their illness and level of exposure to contaminants, reports the New York Times. Individuals could receive anywhere from thousands of dollars to more than one million for those most severely injured.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls the settlement “a fair and reasonable resolution to a complex set of circumstances.”
IB member, attorney Marc Bern, of Napoli Bern Ripka LLP, says “This is a good settlement.” The law firm represents more than 9,000 plaintiffs.
Bern tells the Times, “We are gratified that these heroic men and women who performed their duties without consideration of the health implications will finally receive just compensation for their pain and suffering, lost wages, medical and other expenses, as the U.S. Congress intended when it appropriated this money.”
Under the Settlement
A claims adjustor will use a point system to determine whether a given plaintiff has a valid claim and how much they qualify for. An individual’s medical history will have to be considered including pre-existing conditions and whether they smoked.
It is the same system that was used for the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund to provide for the families of those killed at Ground Zero. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) financed the W.T.C. Captive Insurance fund and has already paid more than $200 million in legal fees to defend the city.
Lawyers will receive one-third of the settlement amount.
Plaintiffs have 90 days to decide whether they want to continue with their individual trials, which were set for May 16.
Among the cases set for trial was on behalf of firefighter, Raymond W. Hauber, 47. He died of esophageal cancer in 2007.
If future cases of cancers arise, a $23.4 million insurance policy will be set aside to cover those claims.
As the settlement payouts could take up to a year, many are wondering why it took so long to bring this chapter to a conclusion.
Retired firefighter, Kenny Specht, 41, who has thyroid cancer and helps other firefighters financially asks, “Why did families who had to bury somebody have to wait this long?” “Why didn’t they handle this in a timely manner?”
As for Whitman and Giuliani, a 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 2007, in response to a lawsuit by five government employees, declared she and other EPA agency officials could not be held constitutionally liable for declarations made about the quality of the air surrounding September 11.
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani who initially said the air quality in lower Manhattan was “healthy or least not dangerous,” reversed himself by 2006 telling WCBS News he wants the city state and federal government first responders to be taken care of for life.
Giuliani says he received assurances from Whitman and EPA that the air quality was fine. By 2006 he said, “I think we knew at the time you were going to have consequences from this.”
On September 11, 2001, 19 hijackers, in coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda, commandeered four commercial passenger jet airlines, crashing two into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, one airliner into the Pentagon, and another into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
2,973 people and 19 hijackers died that day as a result of the attacks. #