Among the police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who rushed to the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, were thousands of others who responded.
That includes about 3,500 federal law enforcement officers, such as Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, U.S. marshals and others. In the months that followed, thousands more federal workers helped at the smoldering pile and the surrounding area.
Since the terror attack, 15 FBI agents have died of 9/11-related illnesses. Three of them died since March.
And yet, fewer than 1,000 federal agents and other employees who worked at Ground Zero or whose offices were in the federal buildings that dot lower Manhattan have registered with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
Perhaps it’s because they don’t realize they’d qualify for the fund, or for the related World Trade Center Health Program that provides monitoring and treatment. Perhaps it’s because they’re overwhelmed by the process.
Or, as FBI Director Christopher Wray said when he visited New York City last week to encourage his agents to sign up, perhaps it’s because they think they’re “as tough as they come” and shouldn’t ask for assistance.
“It’s our turn to help you,” Wray said.
Tuesday is Sept. 11 — 17 years later — and people are still getting sick, and still dying. More than 89,000 first responders and survivors have enrolled with the World Trade Center Health Program, more than 10,000 of whom have been diagnosed with cancer. And 30,000 claims have been filed with the victim compensation fund.
Those growing numbers remind us of the importance of both programs; they remain the least we can do.
Wray’s efforts to reach out to federal workers, including FBI agents, are especially important because a deadline is looming: First responders and survivors have to file a claim by Dec. 18, 2020.
But don’t wait.
There’s help for you now. All you have to do is ask.