9/11’s toll rolls on
The terrorists of 9/11 are still killing even today. The numbers are as large as the original attack, maybe higher. These deaths and disabilities just don’t make the newspapers. The rescue workers, police, port authority officers, firefighters, construction workers, neighboring business owners and anyone near the towers when they collapsed are the victims. Just being in the area on that terrible day was bad luck.It’s not just the falling debris, but also the dust that was the killer. The voluminous gray cloud that covered everyone and everything is its path contained deadly toxins from light bulbs, computer chips, asbestos, ceiling tiles, furniture materials, jet fuel, and yes, pulverized human bodies. A grim thought. Only about 400 of the thousands of toxins have been formally identified. The rest are still a mystery.On my recent trip to the Republican convention in New York I had occasion to come face to face with this reality. My daughter Lynda had introduced me to some New York rescue workers this summer in Vail. They were heroes and survivors of the World Trade Center attack in the truest sense. They breathed that cloud. They all lost good friends in the debris, and some will never be found. They all have suffered the terrible effects of the cloud. Some are physically disabled, some have respiratory problems, some have balance and motor problems, and some will recover maybe to a healthy lifestyle. Some will be incapacitated for the remainder of their lives. Others will die. After talking to these brave men and women, I had to go and see for myself. I ducked a Republican community service project to clean up a park in Chinatown to visit the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project just two blocks from the site. The small clinic, hidden on the fifth floor of an obscure building in lower Manhattan, was not easy to find.My first reaction was that the clinic treated alcohol abuse. Not true. It treats the toxins injected by so many of the workers and innocents who had inhaled them from being consumed by that cloud at ground zero. I not sure I can adequately describe my feelings about what I saw at that clinic. My first introduction was a white towel with the purple stain of a human form. The owner, one of the clinic’s first patients, stained that towel by laying on it while perspiring in a sauna. It was a framed reminder on the wall of the office of the tragedy they were dealing with. A construction worker who had worked the cleanup of the towers exited from the sauna. He proudly showed us his towel and said, “I’m clean.” However, his white towel was stained yellow where he had been lying. The purple, yellow, black and other stains show the deadly toxins these people are shedding.The good part of this story is that people are being successfully treated. The sad part is that they represent a small part of those who should be treated. So why aren’t they? It’s a complicated question. Money is one problem. Risk of detection is another. If those having problems seek treatment, they run the risk of being retired early for disability at pension incomes seriously below their current income. Their families’ goals may never be obtainable. They aren’t willing to risk the loss of these goals for their families so they risk their lives, hoping to live long enough to protect their families. Some have scoffed at the treatment, including some in the medical community who question the treatment. Therefore it’s bad, right? The fact that it has been successful and patients can reasonably expect to recover after only a few months is strong positive evidence. Oh yes, I’m a skeptic, but I can’t argue with success. If you’d like to help, contact me.Let’s not miss the point, however. The point is that the War on Terrorism has just begun. Nine/11 is not just a snapshot in time to be forgotten, but it is a process. That war still goes on, too. The victims are real and there are thousands of them. There may well be future attacks on the U.S. that the terrorists are now planning. I went to the Republican convention because I sincerely believe that terrorism is the critical threat to our liberty and our country. I have confidence that President Bush is making every effort to meet this threat. I believe his primary goal is to protect the U.S. at any cost, and that does not mean asking permission of the defiant French and Germans, or the incapable and corrupt United Nations. Further, we cannot afford a president who may betray our troops again as Kerry did after his very short tour of duty in Vietnam. This is just one reason why I am voting Republican. Stay tuned.Dick Gustafson is a former Eagle County commissioner.Vail, Colorado
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