On September 11, 2001, two hijacked jet aircraft laden with volatile aviation fuel crashed into the World Trade Center, killing 2,600 people and destroying the twin towers. But there was a second catastrophe, as well: Extremely high rates of deadly respiratory disease among the 20,000 rescue workers and others who toiled in clouds of toxic dust at Ground Zero that officials claimed was not dangerous to breathe.
No amount of money -- not even the $7 billion paid out through a special compensation fund -- could stanch the grief of the families of the men and women who died on 9/11. No amount of money can restore to good health the men and women who were stricken because of the toxic cocktail in the air and wreckage of the twin towers, but a $657.7 million settlement announced late Thursday that is to be paid out based on the severity of illnesses will help.
While 19 Al Qaeda-trained hijackers perished and Khalid Sheikh Mohamed will strand trial for his role as the 9/11 mastermind, Dick Cheney and the other White House and intelligence agency officials who ignored repeated warnings about the attacks have never been held accountable and at this late date certainly never will be. Nor have Rudy Giuliani and Christie Todd Whitman, who as New York City major and Environmental Protection Agency administrator cavalierly ignored or papered over concerns about Ground Zero health hazards.
The sleazy Giuliani was a known quantity, but Whitman's hypocritical role has never gotten the attention it deserves.
The former New Jersey governor was a rising national Republican star until she was cast out of the GOP temple by the conservative priests in July 2003 for being too moderate. This was well before the full extent of the public-health disaster at Ground Zero became known, as well as how Whitman had willingly let the White House stage manage her pronouncements that workers had nothing to worry about, in several instances rewriting press releases to paint a more upbeat picture.
Whitman initially refused to testify before a House judiciary subcommittee about her post-9/11 statements and when she did disingenuously claimed that those pronouncements were directed at neighborhoods around the WTC and not the workers.
Top photograph by Stan Honda