I never complained, or sued, nor will I, but in case I die take care of my kid's...
They were among the 40,000 who stepped forward for New York and America after 9-11-01, and they speak here of the price they paid for serving. Their stories are not unusual. No, they are typical among the more than 12,000 men and women who were sickened by breathing the toxic cloud that shrouded Ground Zero. They tell of damaged lungs and psyches, of fears of worse to come and of beliefs that the cloud has brought on cancers and may bring death. They feel betrayed by a government that said the air was safe and cast aside by officials who failed to address the sweeping nature of the resulting epidemic. Above all, these personal accounts stand as an indictment of a neglectful city and country, which must now right the terrible wrong of forgetting those who did the extraordinary at great personal cost.
A smell you never forget
For 20 years, I served as a detective with the New York Police Department, and I retire tomorrow at half pay without medical disability. I can still smell the debris of the Fresh Kills landfill. After you stepped off the bus for your 12-hour shift, the stench was just enormous, and as you walked around, you would see bubbling whirlpools. Fifteen minutes in, I would have splitting headaches. I'd go to the tents, where conveyer belts would bring debris to pick through for human remains. For years after, I had headaches, and I still have bloody noses and sinus problems. I never complained, or sued, nor will I, but in case I die, I've kept everything since that day, every news article, so maybe my two kids will get some compensation for my life.
Steve Heberling, 44, Brewster, N.Y.
'Coughing up blood'
I was at the north tower as an Emergency Medical Services paramedic lieutenant when it collapsed. We ran up West St. We started setting up forward triage, and we treated people for the first three or four hours. When 7 World Trade Center came down, we started to treat sick responders. We were on site until 9 a.m. the next day. The air was indescribable. We worked there until Oct. 1. You couldn't eat anything that wasn't covered with dust. We had paper masks, but they were no good. Condensation from breathing turned the mask into mud. It was worse to breathe with it on. We got respirators about a week into it, but they were not fit-tested, they just came in boxes and we grabbed one that might fit. I worked more than 300 hours at Ground Zero. I considered it a thank you to America, a chance to do something for my country and for my fellow New Yorkers and for my co-workers who were buried in the rubble. We never expected anything to go wrong. Every day we were told the air was safe to breathe. Working down there as a team gave us healing. We could feel all the angels, all the people who had died there. I started coughing up black mucus, and there was black stuff coming out my ears and when I blew my nose. In October 2001, I started coughing up blood clots and went to the FDNY Bureau of Health Services. They gave me an inhaler and said they would monitor it. I was also seeing my own doctor, who diagnosed reactive airways distress syndrome. I would get a sinus infection every six to eight weeks. I also got urinary tract infections. I also had post-traumatic stress syndrome. In 2003, I was diagnosed with acid reflux. I had a lump in my throat and couldn't swallow. I used prednisone for my lungs. A few years before 9/11, I had contracted hepatitis C on the job. The FDNY did physicals in December 2001, and my liver values were normal. But they started increasing. In 2004, I had a liver biopsy, and the hepatitis was at stage 2. I was taking interferon and ribovirin, but the interferon seemed to make my lung condition worse. Every time I went to the pulmonologist, my vital function was decreasing. Now I'm down to 58% lung capacity. Because of the hepatitis C, nothing was working for me. The prednisone was increasing my hepatitis C viral load so I can't treat my lungs, which have scarring. I had to choose which to aggressively treat. I decided to treat the hepatitis C because that can affect other organs. I'm looking at 72 weeks of treatment. There's a 50% chance of eliminating the virus, then the options are interferon to keep liver damage from progressing, probably for the rest of my life. Last week, I was granted a three-quarters disability pension based on the hepatitis C.
Denise Bellingham, 57, Medford, L.I.
Leaving my kids
I was at the site as a volunteer EMT for three days - on 9/11, and then on the 13th and 14th. I was working triage from a deli as WTC 7 burned and fell. Going down there that morning, I left my two children at home. At the time, they thought I was dead, but when you have a job you are trained to do, and you do it well, then you just go do it. And now, I've been officially disabled since 2003. I have acid reflux, migraine and sinus headaches, asthma, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, shingles and flashbacks, but no health coverage because I was a volunteer. I don't have lung disease from smoking. I don't have lung disease from a meth lab. I don't have it from doing something I shouldn't have been doing. I have it from the World Trade Center. What nobody's talking about is the next time something happens. You can't just run into buildings anymore. Those who did are on Death Row and being punished for what we did.
Reggie Cervantes, 45, Kansas City, Kan.
Running out of time
As an American, as a New Yorker, I thought I had an obligation to help. Somebody demolishes a building in my city, it's my duty to clean it up. I'm a union worker. But now, I'm living through a nightmare. The city employees got taken care of, but we didn't get anything. Each time I go to Mount Sinai Medical Center, I lose more of my lung. The first time, it was 21% gone. The next, 33%. Now they say I've lost 44%. I can't even walk up a flight of stairs. I've got three kids and can't afford to take time off work, but I'm worried about the future, about my wife and my children. The lung specialist I went to couldn't diagnose my problem. He didn't know what to say to me, except to guarantee that in 10 years I wouldn't be walking around.
Daniel Arrigo, 51, Staten Island
I worked more than 100 hours doing search and recovery as a police officer. I was in the lobby when the building started collapsing, and I was there through the end of the cleanup. Now I have post-traumatic stress disorder. I've got acid reflux. I've got asthma and upper-respiratory infections. I can't go near large buildings anymore. The Police Medical Board, four times now, denies medical liability. They say my diseases are not related to the World Trade Center, or that my paperwork isn't good enough, or that I need to go to their doctors instead of mine. I just want to be home with my kids. The money doesn't matter now. I'm never responding to a terrorist attack again: I'm just going to go right home with my wife and kids.
Robert Curcio, 34, Staten Island
Whitman's people lied
When we went out to The Pile, initially all we got was a Home Depot-type dust mask. Eventually, they gave us sturdier ones. I worked there from 9/11 until May as an EMS lieutenant and put in well over 100 hours. Two years later, in March 2004, I had my first real asthma attack. That same month, I was forced into the process of retirement. Christie Whitman's EPA people lied: They said the air was safe. Eventually, I got three-quarters disability, but the city had played these little technicalities. The lawyer for the city said that because the department hadn't filed a form, there was no proof that the accident I was claiming for had actually occurred. The judge had to instruct the lawyer for the city that it can be taken for a given that 9/11 had happened. Because I did my duty on 9/11 and in the recovery operations, I'm now totally and permanently disabled.
William Gleeson, 45, Hicksville, L.I.
An incurable disease
On 9/11, I was a captain in the NYPD. I was home with my family when the attack came, and as the first tower fell, I left my pregnant wife and 3-year-old daughter. Both cried, pleading for me not to leave. I went with only one request to the city: Take care of my family. I retired in 2004 at the age of 42, believing myself healthy. Within nine months, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is caused by asbestos, smoldering steel and benzene, all present at Ground Zero. Since then, most of my time has been spent at Sloan-Kettering, getting stem-cell transplants and chemotherapy. And now, after 20 years of service, I'm left with a half-pay pension and little more than an incurable, life-threatening disease and partial paralysis in both hands. Yet not a single city, state or federal agency will acknowledge the air at Ground Zero might be a problem.
Patrick DeSarlo, 44, New City, N.Y.
I volunteered first from the Red Cross then later on with the Salvation Army, working 12-hour shifts with no protection. While most of my duties left me inside, I was exposed to the air going between buildings and as I brought coffee and warm clothes to the men on The Pile. Ever since, I've had chronic sinus infections, and many other volunteers have worse. We weren't paid workers, so we can't retire or go on disability, and there's no way to pay our medical bills. We gladly did what we did - but we are now forgotten.
Kathy Davy, 45, Manhattan
Study: Early 9-11-01 responders suffered major lung damage
August 2, 2006 -- Respiratory function has been so severely compromised in some World Trade Center rescuers that even as the fifth anniversary of the attack approaches, experts are reporting a dramatic aging effect in the lungs of firefighters and others. While some first responders have regained near-normal lung capacity, others have been forced into retirement because of persistent pulmonary disorders typified by asthma-like symptoms and a characteristic World Trade Center cough. An analysis of New York City firefighters and other responders exposed to World Trade Center dust found that rescuers experienced a decrease in lung function equivalent to more than a decade of age-related decline in the first year following the 9-11-01 attacks. Conducted by lung specialists at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, the research indicates that for those hardest hit, breathing disorders remain chronic and may progress to the type of damage seen in people sickened by decades of smoking. "The aging portion of the study was used as a convenient yardstick to make understandable the drop in lung function that we found," said Dr. Gisela Banauch, a Montefiore pulmonologist. She and colleagues report their study today in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. They analyzed lung function tests of 12,079 New York Fire Department members and other rescue workers, most of whom were at Ground Zero during or immediately after the World Trade Center collapse. For those first to arrive, .exposure was worst. Still, a dramatic aging of the lungs -- equivalent to a 12-year loss of lung function -- is an unusual finding, said Dr. Ashok Karnik, chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. Karnik works in collaboration with researchers at Stony Brook University Hospital and The Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, monitoring patients exposed to Ground Zero debris. "I can't say we have found anything equivalent to 12 years of age-related decline," Karnik said. "Some patients do suffer from upper respiratory problems and asthma-like symptoms. For some patients' symptoms are persistent, but for many others, symptoms have decreased over time." Karnik suggested Banauch may have treated patients who had longer exposures to the dust than those in his program. Banauch used a measure called FEV-1, which stands for forced expiratory volume and is a standard test administered by pulmonologists. "This is a basic measure of lung function. When we want to determine if a patient has moderate or severe lung disease we talk in terms of FEV-1," said Dr. Stuart Garay, a clinical professor of pulmonology at NYU Medical Center in Manhattan who also treats patients for respiratory problems caused by World Trade Center dust. "For every year we live, the normal individual loses 30 milliliters" in lung function, Garay said. "That's really a small amount. So you can live into your 80s and 90s without losing much lung function. A smoker by comparison will lose 60 or 70 milliliters a year. So by the time these individuals are 50 years old they're short of breath." Banauch found responders with the worst exposures lost a staggering 372 milliliters within the first year after the attack. She theorizes that for the most disabled, the loss of function ultimately could lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, often diagnosed in smokers. She cites pulverized concrete, which becomes alkaline when inhaled as a powder, as the culprit that seared lungs. Richard Picciotto, 55, a former FDNY chief who participated in Banauch's research, said his exposure to World Trade Center debris has had an adverse effect on his pulmonary function. He has World Trade Center cough. "I was taking medication for the first year and half to two years -- inhalers and stuff like that -- but I've kind of weaned myself off of them," said Picciotto, who retired from FDNY in 2003 because of other .injuries sustained on 9-11-01.
Bloomturd strikes again..How does he sleep at night?
Mike wants proof 9/11 made 'em ill
Doesn't support benefits bill
BY JOE MAHONEY, ERNIE NASPRETTO and FRANK LOMBARDI
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Mayor Bloomberg took a hard line yesterday on paying line-of-duty death benefits for 9/11 responders who die years after their work at Ground Zero - insisting that a "connection" be established between their rescue work and their eventual deaths.
"People, I think, all agree we should help those who stood up there and helped, but you have to make sure there is a connection between what they did and what happened," he said on his WABC-AM radio show.
It was his first public comment opposing a controversial 9/11 death-benefits bill now awaiting Gov. Pataki's signature. Aides to the mayor previously urged Pataki to veto the bill, contending it would cost the city between $5 million and $10 million a year.
The measure calls for paying pension benefits worth three-quarters of a regular salary to the families of certain 9/11 responders after their deaths.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) scolded the mayor for opposing the death-benefits bill.
Silver sent a letter to Pataki stating that he was "extremely distressed" the mayor was leaning on the governor to veto the legislation.
"His call for you to veto the legislation is deeply troubling, and I urge you to consider those heroes and their families who would be devastated if you chose to deny them those rightful benefits," Silver wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Daily News.
Pataki has said he is "inclined" to sign the bill. He has until Wednesday to act.
Many of the cops, firefighters and city workers who spent weeks and months at Ground Zero during the rescue and recovery stages have complained of health ailments they attribute to their 9/11 work.
The contested death-benefits bill was prompted by the death in January of James Zadroga, a retired city detective who had spent more than 450 hours at Ground Zero while with the NYPD. He later developed respiratory ailments and died at the age of 34, just 14 months after retiring on a special 9/11 disability pension.
The autopsy report on Zadroga's death found "with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the cause of death in this case was directly related to the 9/11 incident."
"Everyone wants to take a bow, but nobody wants to do anything," said Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association.
Originally published on August 12, 2006
Mayor Bloomturd it's called a physical exam prior to 9/11. I'm sure that all of the emergency services personnel had them and the firefighters most likely had pulmonary function tests as part of their physical. So you take those baseline results and look at how much damage was done in a very short period. Where were those personnel detailed???? Duh. $5-10 million a year. How can you put a price on what was done in the rescue and recovery effort? Why don't you save some money by ceasing the installation of GPS units that don't interface with dispatch, stop remodeling bathrooms to accomodate female firefighters that MIGHT be detailed there, and pull the advertising money for a minority recruitment effort that does not do anything to look at the root causes of why African Americans don't sign up in droves to take the test. RANT OFF