Cancer causes 9/11 tragedy to linger for victims, families
Deaths from cancer related to the terror attacks continue to climb as do registrations with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
By Joe Dwinell
BOSTON — The 9/11 attacks keep destroying lives even today.
Retired FBI agent Tom O’Connor said he just buried a former colleague who died too young after getting ill from sifting through evidence from the terror attacks 22 years ago.
Loved ones of the nearly 3,000 9/11 victims are battling Saudi Arabia in court over the Kingdom’s alleged involvement in bankrolling some of the 19 hijackers who pulled off the nightmare that never ends.
And, the military tribunal of five terrorists linked to planning the attacks drag on in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where pleas deals are being pitched.
“It’s literally like (Osama) bin Laden is reaching up from the grave and pulling people down,” said O’Connor, a former Northampton police officer who is now head of charities for the FBI Agents Association. He said the FBI has lost 17 agents to 9/11 cancers along with four support staff with hundreds of others sick.
“It’s all from the jet fuel, the planes burning and the Shanksville site where Flight 93 crashed into a Superfund site,” O’Connor said of the illnesses hitting agents. “Every single day we’re talking to someone who is sick.”
That hallowed Shanksville, Pa., field where Flight 93 crashed was once a mine that was capped under the EPA Superfund act rolled out in the early 1980s. The Flight 93 passengers and crew ended the terror attacks with their rallying cry of “Let’s roll!”
But people are still dying.
“We can never forget. Cancer is not allowing us to forget,” said Hansen, a toxic exposure attorney. He said police, firefighters, EMTs, Salvation Army volunteers and so many others who raced to Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack to help are facing chemotherapy instead of retirement.
“Today is an open wound that’s continuing,” he said, “and it’s now spreading to people who have relocated all over the country.”
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund has 85,475 claims as of Aug. 31 with $12 billion awarded to date to help first responders or family members. Also, more than 160,000 people have registered with the fund. That’s tens of thousands worried they could be next to receive a devastating cancer diagnosis.
Hansen said the average age of responders on 9/11 was 39 years old. They are now about to hit their 60s when their days should be filled with grandchildren and retirement plans. “They know the trajectory,” he said of cancer.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, the former commander of the USS Cole when the ship was attacked by terrorists on Oct. 12, 2000, in the Port of Aden in Yemen killing 17 sailors, said 9/11 “is technically never going to be over.”
He’s a lecturer, author and terrorism expert who told the Herald “we haven’t seen justice yet.”
He’s calling for the Biden administration to “get a conviction” against the five Gitmo detainees — including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Not doing so, he said, is “amoral and unethical.” He wants justice for USS Cole families, too.
Brett Eagleson, who was 15 years old when his dad, Bruce, died while working at the Twin Towers on 9/11, wants President Biden to force Saudi Arabia to apologize for its involvement in the terror attacks.
Biden is not expected to attend any of the 9/11 remembrances in NYC, D.C., or Pennsylvania today in what Eagleson said is another setback for 9/11 kin.
“We still don’t have justice.”