When the twin towers crumbled on Sept. 11, 2001, emergency personnel swarmed Ground Zero. They were followed by workers who spent nearly a year removing debris and recovering victims’ remains.
Many have since become belated victims of the attacks, facing conditions such as respiratory complaints, rare cancers and mental-health disorders. Thousands of responders died of illnesses related to their work on and after 9/11, and tens of thousands more are being treated for illnesses.
Their health struggles, and those of Lower Manhattan residents affected by the Sept. 11 attacks, are now honored at New York’s 9/11 Memorial.
The 9/11 Memorial Glade, a monument to responders and survivors who paid for the attacks with their health, recently opened in Lower Manhattan. It’s an expansion of the memorial itself, which is on eight of the 16 acres that used to make up the World Trade Center.
The new portion of the monument is heavy with symbolism. It’s near where the ramp used in the rescue-and-recovery effort once stood at Ground Zero, and it consists of six massive granite monoliths inlaid with salvaged steel from the fallen structures.
Hewn by craftsmen in Vermont, the granite monoliths’ jagged shapes call attention to the largely hidden health struggles of those whose lives were changed — or later ended — by the attacks.
According to the World Trade Center Health Program, more than 9,400 registered responders developed cancer after the attacks. Thousands more experience mental-health conditions, airway ailments and other health issues.
As of March 2019, at least 2,100 responders and 182 survivors registered with the program have died. That death toll does not reflect those who did not register with the program before their deaths, or who died before the program came into existence in 2011. New health ramifications, such as an emerging trend of memory problems among responders, are still coming to light.
Meanwhile, those affected continue to fight for compensation for the costs of treatment. One of their champions, comedian Jon Stewart, helped lead fundraising efforts for the memorial.