First Responder Deaths Demand Response

by L J Furman, MBA on May 23, 2013

in 9/11, Connecting the Dots, Health Care - Access To

Ground Zero in Ruins. Courtesy CBS News

Ground Zero in Ruins. Courtesy CBS News

Adan Gonzalez, 69, died of throat cancer in April, 2015. Mr. Gonzalez had been a photographer and a volunteer at the World Trade Center site, working for two years as a photographer documenting the event and serving other volunteers.

Mr. Gonzalez is one of 1,712 First Responders who died due to the Sept. 11 attacks, 412 who died the day of the attacks (wikipedia) and 1,300 who died from medical complications arising from their search and rescue work. Over 40% of the 4,053 people who died in or resulting from the attack, not counting soldiers killed in Afghanistan or Iraq, or who died after returning home were first responders engaged in search and rescue or cleanup operations, a humanitarian mission.

While I can’t state unequivocally that the cancer that killed Mr. Gonzalez was triggered by his work at the site in 2001, 2002, and 2003 – I am not a doctor – it is known that 9/11 Responders have a 15% higher rate of cancers than the general population.  And government officials did say “Ground Zero toxins might have caused [Adan Gonzalez'] cancer” (Metro NYC, Alison Bowen, reporting).

According to John Feal, of the Feal Good Foundation, Mr. Gonzalez is one of 1300 9/11 responders to have died after working at the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. This doesn’t included the 343 firefighters and paramedics or the 60 NYPD and Port Authority police officers killed on Sept 11, according to NY Magazine,

On one hand, 1,300 deaths in 10 or 12 years, in a metropolitan area like New York City, is a low percentage of the population.  But when the scope is narrowed to “First responders who worked at the site after a terrorist attack,”  and compared to the 2,753 people killed in the attack, the number is staggering. Roughly two out of five people who died as a result of the attack, not counting soldiers killed in Afghanistan or Iraq, or who died after they returned home, were first responders. A total of 1,653 died; 343 were killed on Sept 11, 2001, another 1,300 died of cancer or other ailments in the years following the attack.

First Responders risk their lives to protect the citizens of this country.  They deserve our respect and our help. The Veterans Health Administration was created to help veterans because they risk their lives to protect and defend this country. As I see it, the mission of the VHA should be expanded to provide healthcare for all First Responders. (Actually, I believe that the mission of the VHA should be expanded to cover all citizens with basic health care.) If we start by including those injured in the call of duty how do we view people, like Mr. Gonzalez, whose illnesses may have been caused by their work to protect the rest of us? How is the work of the First Responders on Ground Zero not work in Defense of this country? Simply because they didn’t wear a uniform? Because they Volunteered?

The Centers for Disease Control, CDC is finally taking action to help people who were injured because they lived or worked on or near Ground Zero. As noted on their web site for the CDC World Trade Center Health Program,

The World Trade Center Health Program (WTC Health Program) was established by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 Adobe PDF fileExternal Web Site Icon. The program provides services for responders, workers, and volunteers who helped with rescue, recovery, and cleanup at the World Trade Center and related sites in New York City. It also provides services for survivors who were in the New York City disaster area, lived, worked, or were in school in the area. In addition, responders to the Pentagon and the Shanksville, PA crash site are also eligible for services provided by the WTC Health Program.

There is also a nationwide provider network offering medical monitoring and treatment for eligible responders and survivors who live outside the New York City metropolitan area.

This gets to the heart of the role of government in our democracy. In the eyes of the kings and aristocrats, against whom the founders of our democracy rebelled, we were not citizens; we were subjects of the king – property.  The rights and privileges of the British Crown may have been constrained by the Magna Carta, but rights and privileges taken from the king were awarded to the so-called noble men, not to the people.  Certain women had influence over various men, but women had neither rights nor property. The property a woman could use was legally the property of her father, husband, or brother. Although they were not slaves who could be sold, although an argument could be made that a “dowry” was essentially a payment, women were essentially property. We can see an example of this in the 1857 Supreme Court Case, “Dred Scott v John F. A. Sandford.” John Sandford, who held the legally recognized claims on Mr. Scott was the brother of John Emerson’s widow. John Emerson claimed to own Scott until his death, at which time the claims of possession passed to his widow and the claims of ownership passed to his  brother-in-law John Sandford. Scott sued for his freedom. Sandford litigated saying, “My slave, in my sister’s household….”

Slavery ended during the Civil War. Women won the right to vote in the 19th Amendment, which was passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920.

The next step is to establish the right to health care as a basic human right.

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The photograph above is from a CBS News gallery.

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A candidate for NJ General Assembly   (Campaign site / Join / Contribute) , and an analyst with Popular Logistics, Lawrence J. Furman holds a Bachelor’s in Biology, and an MBA in “Managing for Sustainability” from Marlboro College, Vermont. His song “Gone Now Forever,” at XB Cold Fingers, tells the story of a man who went to work on the morning of Sept 11. Furman also has experience in information technology. He can be reached at “Larry” at Furman For New Jersey. com and “L Furman 97 at G Mail.”

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