9/11 first responders and survivors struggle between coronovirus epidemics


Americans are commemorating the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Friday, though commemorative events that allow first responders and survivors to gather and mourn were reduced because of the coronovirus epidemic.

Comparing the pain that comes with anniversaries, tens of first responders and survivors are particularly susceptible to dealing with a more severe case of COVID-19 because of cancer and respiratory diseases in their time Attacks stem from working places.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy last month urged those attending memorial services to wear masks and practice social distance.

Meanwhile, the New York City Fire Department encouraged its members to consider skipping memorial services, with their particular risk of contracting the virus. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum quit reading the names of the victims due to COVID-19 concerns, with The Tunnel to Towers Foundation announcing it would do the reading. Crowds of mourners attended and practiced social distance to attend the memorial ceremony at the World Trade Center. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Vice President Pence participated in the observance.

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum initially canceled this year’s Tribute in Light, where two beam lights were in the Sky Mark where the twin towers once stood, but Overturned his decision After outrage from the suffering families and the public.

The inability to connect the individual with others in memorial events can be difficult for first responders and survivors, many of whom are already struggling with mental health issues as a result of their 9/11 experiences.

9/11 first responder John Feil said in an interview, “Because of the epidemic, because the events are being canceled, many of them feel that the walls are closing and they have to worry about their mental health Is required.”

Feil also expressed concern that the plight of the virus-affected 9/11 first responders and their own health status may be ignored by the public, as the 19th anniversary is not a milestone that attracts as much attention Does.

“If it was a 20-year anniversary, it would get more attention,” Feel said.

“Mentally and physically, my life has been changed”

Earlier this year, when coronoviruses seemed like a threat going through a massive public health crisis that would affect millions of Americans, Feil still felt it was important to take the epidemic seriously.

He was a destroyer supervisor at Ground Zero in New York City after the 9/11 attacks and developed gangrene after falling at the foot of a steel beam that later required partial amputation.

Fell has been a tireless advocate for other 9/11 survivors, and is the founder of the Feelgood Foundation, which aims to assist injured first responders in the line of duty. He recorded a video earlier this year urging 9/11 first responders to take the epidemic seriously.

“In the first week of March, I was wearing a mask before I was sexy,” Fell told CBS News in an interview. Despite being cautious, Feal contracted the virus. Pneumonia started as a stomach virus and soon tested positive for COVID-19.

“Not only did my joints hurt, my skin hurt. And not only did my skin hurt, the hair on my body hurt,” Feil said. “Everything hurt. My eyelids hurt.”

Feil said he was given the option by doctors to stay in hospital or return home for treatment. He decided to return home, as he did not want to die in the hospital. He lost his sense of taste and smell, which returned weeks later. He struggled to speak, and at times felt that he could not breathe.

“The scariest thing was not being able to breathe fully, like someone was holding my head under water,” Feil said.

Healed up, but like his injury at Ground Zero 19 years ago, he feels his life has been changed.

He said, “I don’t feel like it. My life has changed mentally and physically.” “After this illness, I don’t feel 100% where I am.”

Feil spoke of the fear that all first responders and survivors felt about contracting some form of 9/11-related cancer, and how that fear has been eradicated by the epidemic.

“In the 9/11 community, everyone worries 24/7 when they are going to get 9/11-related cancers,” Changa said. “Everyone, including us, we’re all going over our shoulder, ‘When are we getting cancer?” Now, they’re going over their shoulder, ‘My God, when I’m going to get cancer or when I’m going to get COVID or when I’m going to have both?’

“Why were we not ready?”

This is not the first time the 9/11 community has addressed an unsatisfactory federal response to its problems. With first responders and survivors dying of their 9/11-related illness in the midst of their advocacy, Congress had to lobby for years to compensate for their injuries.

The original September 11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF), operated between 2001 and 2004 by the Bush administration, but only assisted victims whose injuries occurred within 96 hours of the attacks – except for first responders, such as Feil, who died on September 17, 2001 Were injured. 9/11 became one of the most prominent advocates for the community. In 2011, President Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which reactivated the VCF.

The act was redefined in 2015, allowing people to submit their claims to the VCF. However, in 2019 it became clear that VCF lacked funds to cover all claims submitted. Changa, comedian John Stewart and other first responders once again lobbied Congress for the fund’s renewal.

In July 2019, President Trump signed the VCF Permanent Authorization Act, appropriating sufficient funds to end VCF claims from December 18, 2020 to October 1, 2090, and to respond to all claims. . As of 31 July, a total of over 55,000 people have submitted claims in VCF.

The VCF not only helps first responders, but also those who clean up, as well as those who live, work, or attend school in the area.

The law firm of Michael Barasch represents 20,000 9/11 first responders and survivors who have become ill with 9/11-related illnesses. Barash told CBS News that his law firm COVID-19 has lost more than 100 customers since the onset of the epidemic.

“It’s really a perfect storm,” Barash said, explaining how many of his clients have undergone chemotherapy for cancer or have an underlying respiratory condition. “And if they get it, often it’s a death sentence.”

Barash said that many of his customers felt betrayed by the government again. After 9/11, he said, first responders were told by the then director of the Environmental Protection Agency that air was safe to breathe at Ground Zero. (The director, Christine Todd Whitman, later admitted she was mistaken and apologized for her comments.)

Federal government Downplay The severity of the coronovirus epidemic in the early days of the epidemic, which Barash believed the crisis worsened.

“Why were we not ready? When things are really dangerous, why is our government level not with us?” Barash said.

Dr. Benjamin Luft, director of the Long Island-based Stoney Brook WTC Health and Wellness Program, which treats and monitors about 10,000 9/11 first responders, said there was “a lot of anxiety and fear” among the first people in the spring.

“He felt it was almost a recurrence of the 9/11 incident,” Luft said in an interview to CBS News, particularly given the lack of personal protective equipment in hospitals. “I think they are more susceptible to not having proper protection because they are burned once with that whole thing, so they are very attentive.”

Luft said his program was monitoring the rate of infection and the severity of the disease for first responders contracting the virus. He said that first responders who are still working are more likely to be infected, but rates of infection have been seen to be lower among retired first responders, as they are aware of their worrisome conditions and avoid the virus. They need to be taken care of.

Although the rate of infection has declined in New York, where most 9/11 first responders are based, Luft said they should continue the practice of wearing social distances and face coverings.

“I think they have to be cautious. I think they have to be smart and continue wearing masks and practicing social distances, and they have to take care of themselves in terms of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”

“We’ll get through it”

Daniel Monte was a construction worker at the Pentagon when he witnessed an American Airlines Flight 77 crash on September 11, 2001, into the building. He later worked on the Phoenix Project to rebuild this structure, and was diagnosed with 9/11 bladder related diseases resulting in cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Monte, now based in Panama City Beach, Florida, told CBS News that he has been “hibernating” for months because of the threat of contracting the virus.

Monte said, “I wash my hands all the time, I wear a mask, and I don’t touch my face. I maintain my social distances.” His recent operation for bladder cancer has also been covered by the VCF, which Monte praised as an incredible resource for 9/11 survivors.

He is frustrated with mixed messages from government officials about how to treat the virus, and about the safety of reopening businesses and schools.

“Nobody really knows how to treat it, so I’m staying at home,” he said. “I want someone to come up with some kind of basic information about what we should and should not do.”

Prolonged isolation also overshadows his mental health.

“It’s really tough,” Monte said. “I suffer from PTSD, and isolation does not help.”

“It’s been a long time since I really got any freedom. But whatever it takes to make others safe, that’s it,” Monte said. “We’ll get through it.”


For more information about the Victims Compensation Fund, visit vcf.gov.

VCF Can provide compensation for individuals Those with death related to 9/11 list the death certificate COVID-19 as the cause of death, if death occurs, if the preexisting condition as the underlying cause of death as a significant cause of death. Is listed in The VCF reviews each individual claim on a case-by-case basis.

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