• 9/11 Victim Programs
  • Victim Compensation Fund (VCF)
  • WTC Health Program (WTCHP)
  • Wrongful Death VCF Claims

Honoring the Past, Supporting the Present—A Commitment to 9/11 Victims' Families

Published in Newsweek on February 16, 2024

For many, the beginning of 2024 held a fresh start. For members of the 9/11 community, this past month was a reminder that the nightmare has not yet ended, and that the road to closure is long, and for some, indefinite.

On Jan. 13, 9/11 victims' advocate and father of 9/11 legislation, Joseph Zadroga, was tragically killed in a car accident. Joseph Zadroga was an icon in the 9/11 community, a true leader who fought for health care and benefits for all of the people who got sick. While he may no longer be here to fight, his legacy lives on in all of the lives he helped save.

On Jan. 19, the remains of 9/11 victim John Ballantine Niven were identified after 22 years of investigation. The identification of the remains of a victim 22 years after the 9/11 attack is a stark reminder of both the barbarity of the attacks and of the long journey that many families have had toward healing. Hundreds of families still wait for this kind of closure.

On Feb. 4, Bob Beckwith, a retired firefighter who volunteered in the search for survivors after the towers collapsed, died in hospice care after being treated for cancer. After becoming a neighborhood hero, Mr. Beckwith spent his days fighting for the 9/11 community and went on to become a spokesperson for numerous 9/11-related charities.

In the time since the Sept. 11 attacks, more people have died from the aftermath of the toxic exposure than died in the attacks themselves.

As we mourn the loss of Joseph Zadroga, we understand that his mission is unfinished. There is still work left to do, in his honor, and all of those affected by 9/11. We cannot rest on our laurels and believe that we have done all that needs to be done for the victims of 9/11, as every single day more people are diagnosed with cancer and diseases from the toxic dust in the air. Thousands of workers, parents, and children went back to life as normal and are now suffering the consequences after the government told them that it would all be fine.

This is not to say that the government has done an inadequate job providing for these victims. The World Trade Center Health Program, the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund, and dozens of pieces of legislation have allowed for thousands of people to get the help they need and deserve. Most recently, the 9/11 Notice Act was passed, signed into law by New York Governor Kathy Hochul on the twenty-second anniversary of the attack. This unprecedented piece of legislation will enforce that all businesses that were operational south of Canal Street that had over 50 employees from September 2001 to May 2002 track down and notify their former employees that they are eligible for benefits. Rarely, if ever, does the government pass laws to raise awareness of benefits that people can reap. The Notice Act was a notable exception.

As it stands, the benefits encompass coverage for over 90 different diseases that have been linked to 9/11 toxic exposure. However, with time, people are getting sick with other diseases that are not yet covered. Neuropathy, an autoimmune disease, was rejected by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2017, citing insufficient evidence. Currently, there are two petitions from medical professionals pushing the NIOSH to add neuropathy and rheumatoid arthritis to the list of covered conditions. More generally, there has been little research done to establish links between autoimmune diseases and 9/11 toxic exposure.

As time progresses, the need to help the number of people who are sick only grows, and while the funding will continue to help those with covered diseases through 2090, there needs to be a renewed emphasis on funding the research needed to make sure that additional diseases get covered.

Only when every affected person gets the help they need can we hold true to the promise of "never forget."