August 29, 2010
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
11 September nine years ago, 2,975 people died in the worst-ever terrorist attack on US soil. The body count was shocking, and the trauma suffered by victims’ families hard to contemplate. But the danger to New York citizens was far from over. In addition to those who perished in and around the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and on United Flight 93, there are thousands of ‘shadow’ victims: people who inhaled the toxic dust cloud that enveloped Ground Zero and who are now suffering serious – in some cases fatal – illnesses as a direct result. Indeed, far more people are likely to die from the effects of the dust than in the attack itself.
These victims include office workers, shopkeepers, students and local residents – but the worst-affected are the ‘responders’: emergency service, recovery and volunteer aid workers who were exposed to the site at close quarters. These people went to help – and are paying with their lives. The New York City Department of Health has already recorded 817 deaths of World Trade Center (WTC) responders from illnesses generated by working on the site. But as well as the official figures, there are currently another 20,000 recorded sick by the WTC Medical Monitoring Treatment and Environmental programmes.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg. According to the World Trade Center Health Registry, 410,000 people were heavily exposed to WTC toxins causing restrictive respiratory illnesses and cancers, which changes 11 September from a terrorist attack into a full-blown environmental disaster on the scale of Chernobyl, where the initial toll was overshadowed by deaths and illnesses that were still occurring up to 20 years later.