9/11 responders await Zadroga Act benefits
Chris Baumann felt such pain and despair that he deliberately walked into traffic hoping to be hit by a car. John Devlin reflects on the prediction he made while searching the ruins of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 - "We're taking years off our life being here." Glen Klein remembers when a "good day" at Ground Zero was finding a small piece of flesh or bone so a family had something to bury.
For many of the firefighters, police and civilians who worked at Ground Zero, Sept. 11, 2001, never ended. Almost a decade after they turned out by the thousands to search for the dead and clear debris, many suffer a range of physical and psychological illnesses that have steadily worsened.
No one can say exactly how many of these illnesses are directly related to their work. Researchers believe it will take 20 to 30 years before they understand all of the health ramifications from the toxic legacy wrought by tons of rubble and black smoke that rose from the pile. Doctors monitoring the workers are convinced that many of their illnesses are related to exposure to the air at the site.
The Zadroga Act signed last month will fund responders' health care for the next five years and provide some cash compensation for those who Congress recognizes sacrificed their health and well-being, even their livelihoods.
But federal officials have yet to decide whether to include some conditions, such as cancer, where there is not yet hard evidence of a link to WTC toxins. Also undecided is whether people who got a payment from the 2001 Victim Compensation Fund but who now are much sicker should be eligible for additional cash. By taking the earlier payout, they waived their rights to any further settlements from lawsuits.
Through all the uncertainty, responders and their families deal daily with the consequences of illnesses that have had a devastating impact. Here are five of their stories: