Thursday, September 11, 2008

Health Care and 9/11

Seven years ago today, on a beautiful late summer day, Americans were going about business as usual in the early morning hours of September 11, 2001. Commuters were riding the train to work, hoping to get to their destination before they were late to the office. Moms were shuttling kids to daycare. Secretaries were beginning to type up the day's activities and coordinating memos for their corporate executive officers. Coffee was brewing at the local cafe while waitresses were taking the next breakfast order to be put into the chef. Children were riding the bus to school, on their way to start another day of learning in the new academic year. The nation was preparing for another day of activity at home, at school, at the office. It was a gorgeous morning with brilliant blue skies over much of the country. Typical scenes on a typical day, nothing out of the ordinary and nothing unusual to be expected. No one who woke up that morning to get ready for the day's events realized that the world was about to change--forever. reports succinctly that 2 hijacked jetliners hit the World Trade Center in New York, and a third slammed into the Pentagon outside Washington. A fourth hijacked plane crashes into a field in Pennsylvania. Trading on WallStreet is stopped. The Federal Aviation Administration halts all flight operations at the nation's airports for the first time in U.S. history. U.S. military is placed on high alert. President Bush addresses the nation and vows to "find those responsible and bring them to justice." Hundreds of New York City firemen and policemen sent to rescue WTC workers are lost when the WTC Twin Towers collapse. Reaction from international leaders is swift as world leaders react withoutrage over the attacks. Over 3,000 men, women and children are gone in a single day--the first attack of magnitude on American soil. Images of flames and mass destruction are broadcast and repeated in video loops for the entire day. The nation stopped in its tracks, stunned beyond belief that the U.S. would be hit by terrorists in an unprovoked and horrific attack.

Wikipedia also gives a very concise and detailed overview of the day's events. On that morning, terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and many others working in the building, causing both buildings to collapse within two hours, destroying at least two nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington, D.C. There are no known survivors from any of the flights.

Wikipedida goes on to report that excluding the 19 hijackers, 2,974 people died in the attacks. Another 24 are missing and presumed dead. The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians, including nationals of over 90 different countries. In addition, the death of at least one person from lung disease was ruled by a medical examiner to be a result of exposure to dust from the World Trade Center's collapse, as rescue and recovery workers were exposed to airborne contaminants following the buildings' collapse. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, hundreds were killed instantly by the impact, while the rest were trapped and died after the tower collapsed. As many as 600 people were killed instantly or were trapped at or above the floors of impact in the South Tower. At least 200 people jumped to their deaths from the burning towers, landing on the streets and rooftops of adjacent buildings hundreds of feet below and died instantly on impact. A total of 411 emergency workers who responded to the scene died as they attempted to implement rescue and fire suppression efforts. The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) lost 341 firefighters and 2 FDNY paramedics. The New York City Police Department lost 23 officers. The Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers. Private EMS units lost 8 additional EMTs and paramedics. In addition to all this carnage, thousands of private citizens died with a horrible ending--some instantly and some suffering excrutiatingly gross pain until death. The city of NY was only able to identify remains for approximately 1,600 of the victims at the World Trade Center. The medical examiner's office also collected "about 10,000 unidentified bone and tissue fragments that cannot be matched to the list of the dead."

Additionally, according to Wikipedia, the thousands of tons of toxic debris resulting from the collapse of the Twin Towers consisted of more than 2,500 contaminants, including known carcinogens. This has led to debilitating illnesses among rescue and recovery workers, which many claim to be directly linked to debris exposure. Health effects have also extended to some residents, students, and office workers of Lower Manhattan and nearby Chinatown. There is also scientific speculation that exposure to various toxic products in the air may have negative effects on fetal development. There will be significant short term and multiple long term issues related to health care for this event that took place seven years ago today. No one will ever really know how many Americans will develop cancer or other diseases related to this event, and the cost of taking care of them will continue to go on for years to come. Reports also indicate that over 70,000 people in NYC still suffer from post-traumatic stress due to 9/11.

Today, the country paused this morning at the exact time of the attack to pay homage to those who died. Ground Zero in New York City will have a somber ceremony to honor the victims and their families. Dignitaries all over America will make speeches, give testimonies about that day's memories, and salute those who were first responders to the scenes. The Pittsburgh Business Times reported that services commemorating the seventh anniversary of the crash of Flight 93 will be held Wednesday and Thursday in Shanksville, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. And, the University of Pittsburgh’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps will render a 21-gun salute as part of the memorial at a service in Pittsburgh. At the Pentagon this morning, the ceremony dedicated a memorial to the 184 victims killed when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the building's west wall. An American flag was raised smartly to the top of a flagpole, then slowly lowered to half-staff, and the band played the national anthem. The President and others spoke about tragedy and heroic acts. Earlier, a bagpiper walked alone across the Pentagon memorial playing "Amazing Grace."

When you start to question why America is in a war against terrorism, remember the day that changed a people, a nation, a world. Nothing will ever be the same again. Americans have much to celebrate, and much for which to be thankful. Americans must be vigilant. Americans must remember our history, and what sacrifices have been made to keep the nation safe. Take time to hug your kids and your family. Call your friends and tell them you have been thinking about them and wish them well. Love your spouse, and tell them what they mean to you. Say a prayer to God that expresses thanks for His blessings, asks forgiveness for any unkind actions and thoughts towards others, and seeks His protection. Most of all, Americans can never forget---never, never, never forget.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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