MESSAGE FROM A 9/11 RESCUE RESPONDER
"I (still) see and hear about people being diagnosed with cancer every single day from 9/11. I'm afraid there's no end in sight-- It's because of this that I'm so driven to get myself checked out regularly... and I also try to get everyone to get screenings. However way I can do that, if it's through an article in the paper, if it's something online, anything that we can do... it's gotta happen!" - Richard Marrone
I worked for FDNY EMS during 9/11 to assist in the rescue recovery efforts, working out of Battalion 55 in the South Bronx. I got there after the towers had collapsed and was assigned there on and off for 10 months.
THE KILLER DUST
It was just everywhere. The DUST was so thick it would dry your eyes out. You couldn't breathe. As EMS, that was a lot of what we were doing was just constantly cleaning people's eyes out. There's nothing you can do to get away from it. I know what was in those particulates--it was asbestos, it was concrete, it was human remains, metals and any possible contamination in a fire... it was all there.
Nobody was protected. Even the firefighters who had self-contained breathing apparatus, you're only getting 15 or 20 minutes maximum on those cylinders, and there just wasn't enough to keep constantly replacing them. The police officers and EMS personnel were using surgical masks, which basically provided no protection whatsoever. We mostly treated rescue workers on site due to the dust-- eyes and stuff like that. There really wasn't enough eye or respiratory protection, so anybody that became a patient post-collapse was due to the contamination and the toxins of 9/11.
TOXIC DUST TRAVELS HOME
But another concern of mine is the peripheral contaminants that may have affected the forgotten people in all this; the family members that the responders came home to. Think about whomever was handling our clothing & laundry-- I would come home, take my clothes off outside the house, bring them in and my wife would put them in the wash. Every time I was exposed to the Trade Center, so was she. She never went down to Manhattan but I brought it all home to HER. How many other wives and husbands and people associated with rescue workers have come down with an illness due to 9/11 and never once stepped foot down at 9/11? DUST gets everywhere and situations like this are how a disease travels.
UPGRADES IN THE SYSTEM
It's been 17 years today. We've had a lot of funerals due to 9/11 related cancers and there's no end to this.
We all learned a lot from 9/11 as a learning aspect and a lot of protocols were created because of it. It's pretty enforced (now) that every single member of the police and fire departments have a full face chemical/respirator mask as a standard for personal protective equipment. Also, the fire department along with the EMS branch has its own hazmat people. They train with hazmat and we have rescue medics. Back then, you didn't have enough for ground zero because 9/11 didn't start out as a hazmat job; that was a plane crash, a building fire-- that was a collapse. It didn't become a hazmat job until after the buildings had fallen down and they realized that this is probably not good to breathe in.
GETTING CERTIFIED is MESSAGE #1
We all got certified and tested and some of us continue to get re-tested. As the union delegate (then), when it came close to the closing for the victims compensation certification, I made copies of every application and put them on the desk of every single member at my facility. And told them, "You have to fill this out. And then give it back to me." And then I would send it in to make sure that it got in. So I essentially was trying to force people to become certified, begging people to let me help you take care of your family in the event something happens. And most people were appreciative, and I was glad to do it.
Getting certified doesn't mean you have cancer or that you're sick. Just because you certify yourself doesn't mean you're going to come down with an illness or that it designates you as a sick person or that you're going to be sick. But if you worked at 9/11, you may become sick in the future, it's just a matter of WHEN. What this is about is to have you certify yourself so when that day comes, you and/or your family is taken care of. That's all there is.
About the Author:
Richard Marrone is a career veteran with the NY Fire Department, an active Emergency Medical Technician for the FDNY and a first responder at 9/11. He spent a significant amount of time in Ground Zero since the attack treating all responders and civilian victims while being directly exposed to the deadly air and toxic dust that affected (and continue to affect) so many thousands. Today, he volunteers for various local cancer organizations and cancer awareness groups and works as a health advocate for regular cancer screening & cancer prevention for all first responders, volunteers and civilians exposed to 9/11 toxic dust.