The 9/11 health crisis continues
I was interviewed along with Olivia Cousins for the April 2019 issue of the Clarion. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and tragically, Olivia died from her 9/11-related cancer a few months after the article was published. Like many, we were unaware that we were entitled to benefits from the government as a result of our exposure to World Trade Center toxins. We both consulted with attorney Michael Barasch, who was also interviewed in that article. He advised us that we were eligible for both the free WTC Health Program and the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).
Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) has become a cancer cluster. More than 100 of us have been diagnosed with cancer and many have died. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has linked 68 cancers as well as a host of respiratory illnesses to 9/11. According to the WTC Health Program, more than 16,000 people have been certified with 9/11 cancers and NIOSH projects that by 2025, another 35,000 people could become afflicted.
A 9/11 informational seminar, sponsored by the Barasch & McGarry law firm, was held at BMCC in September 2019, immediately after the permanent reauthorization of the Victim Compensation Fund. To qualify for compensation, the government requires two affidavits of Proof of Presence in the exposure area. Unless survivors act now to gather their proofs of presence, they risk having their future claims denied. In addition, the VCF special master extended the deadline for family members to register claims on behalf of their loved ones who died more than two years ago. This extension will expire on July 29, 2021.
BMCC has a moral obligation to inform our community, once again, of the benefits to which we are all entitled. To the college’s credit, after Clarion published its article, outreach efforts to faculty and former students was made by Robert Diaz, vice president of human resources before his retirement. Still, only 7% of non-responders, including those in the BMCC community, have registered for these programs. Clearly, the vast majority do not realize that they are eligible. I implore every one of the 20,000 students, faculty and staff who were at BMCC during the 2001–02 academic year to protect their rights by registering for both programs – even if they are not currently ill.