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The NYPD is on alert today, prepared for potential threats on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is leading the security measures around the city. He joins Zoraida Sambolin on “Early Start” this morning from the World Trade Center memorial site with more details.
“There are no credible threats today,” Kelly says. “We have done an awful lot in this city to protect ourselves from another terrorist attack. We have invested a lot of effort, a lot of time, but there are no guarantees,” he says. Over 200 specially trained officers are standing ground at the memorial and the surrounding area. “I think we are safer now certainly than we have ever been, but, as I say, we’re certainly not taking anything for granted,” Kelly says.
Kelly says social media is integrated in this year’s tribute. The NYPD’s Facebook page and Twitter have memorials to officers whose lives were lost in 9/11. Kelly says 23 police officers were lost that day, and “an additional 52 members of the department, who have succumbed to illnesses that they contracted in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, either working at Ground Zero or at the landfill at Staten Island.” “We are tweeting each name and short statement about each officer and you can see the entire package on our Facebook page,” he says. “We thought it was another way to make certain that we certainly never forget their sacrifice.”
Kelly also remarks on federal health authorities adding 58 types of cancers covered by the Zadroga Act for people exposed to toxins at Ground Zero. “It’s certainly major move in the right direction,” he says. “Whether or not it’s enough, I think, remains to be seen.
First responders celebrate a victory today on the commemoration of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Yesterday federal health authorities added 58 types of cancers to the list of covered illnesses by the Zadroga Act for people who worked at Ground Zero. Dr. Benjamin Luft, Director of the World Trade Center Health Program at Stony Brook, NY, comes to “Early Start” this morning to discuss the development. His center provides health services and treatment for First Responders.
“This is really a historic decision,” Dr. Luft says. He says people are continuing to develop cancers and it’s uncertain how many people this decision will ultimately help. “What this really establishes, that the environment wasn’t safe at Ground Zero and that there was a very significant toxic exposure to a variety of carcinogens” Dr. Luft says. As a result of all the equipment pulverized and burnt in the World Trade Center, “there was a tremendous number of organic toxins that were in the air and in the environment,” Dr. Luft explains.
Dr. Luft also reflects on the diversity of the First Responders who put themselves at risk. Firemen and policemen were joined by ordinary citizens. “They were construction workers, laborers, undocumented workers. All of these people came together to respond, and they did so without any thought as to what the long-term consequences were,” Dr. Luft says. “It was a real example of a very American sense of altruism.”
“I think it’s so important to understand that 11 years later,” he says, “as many as 20% continue to suffer from various psychiatric issues, psychological issues, like post-traumatic stress.” He stresses that 2,700 people died gruesome deaths on 9/11. “This is a tremendous insult to someone’s psyche and this is what they continue to recollect for so many years later,” Dr. Luft says.
He hopes that the program continues to be funded so that First Responders could be treated. “This program is only funded for about three more years,” he says. “And it requires Congress to set aside more funds for it to be able to go on.”