Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

9/11 toll still grows
By Michele McPhee, Daily News, May 25, 2004

Workers Cancer is no coincidence

For Bob Shore and Victor DiPierro, the tragic story of Sept. 11, 2001, didn't end that day.

They were among the innumerable heroes who spent weeks and months looking for remains - only to develop life-threatening cancer.

The Daily News revealed yesterday that many cops and firefighters assigned to Ground Zero are developing serious illnesses, including cancer.

And though no direct link between Ground Zero and cancer has yet been established, more victims came forward yesterday to tell their stories.

DiPierro, a cop in the 46th Precinct, worked at Ground Zero all night on Sept. 11 and every day for months afterward.

"When I saw the plane hit, I drove right to the precinct," DiPierro told The News yesterday.

He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in March, and underwent surgery on April 5 to have two tumors removed.

"I don't regret it. What we did is nothing," said DiPierro, 36, a nine-year veteran who is on sick leave while undergoing radiation treatment.

"I almost feel guilty now getting sick and saying it's because of that day. I knew the air just wasn't right then. You could smell it, and it didn't feel right.

"But it's not a coincidence that we are all getting sick now. Young, healthy cops and firemen all getting sick a couple years after working down there? There is no way that is a coincidence at all."

Shore, a retired correction officer, said he worked nearly nonstop for three weeks at Ground Zero. He has pancreatic cancer, a condition his doctor insists was either caused by or accelerated by the "smoke and chemical gases" in the air those terrible days.

Shore, 52, said he volunteered to work in the massive recovery effort. "My wife called me and said my sister-in-law was trapped in the building. I ran right there and stayed for weeks. I came home every night crying from what I saw there."

His dark experiences prompted him to retire from the Correction Department eight months after the disaster.

By September 2002, Shore became crippled with pains in his rib cage that spread to his spine. Months later, he was told those pains were caused by terminal pancreatic cancer.

By April 2003, Shore was having surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center to remove his pancreas, gallbladder and spleen.

Two doors down was NYPD Detective Robert Williamson, 43, whose struggle with pancreatic cancer was detailed in The News yesterday.

Williamson is one of 1,700 cops and firefighters who filed a notice of claim against the city, saying their illnesses or injuries were related to their work after the 9/11 attacks.

Shore is not expected to survive, despite extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. His doctor, Charles Hesdorffer, insists the deadly blend of noxious gases released by the collapse of the towers either caused or accelerated his condition.

"His occupational exposure, albeit as a result of a terrible terrorist act, was the likely cause of his unfortunate disease, which will inevitably lead to his untimely demise," Hesdorffer, an oncologist at Columbia Presbyterian, wrote in a letter to Shore's attorney, Michael Barasch.

Hesdorffer testified on behalf of Shore - and nearly a dozen others with grave illnesses - at Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund hearings. Shore's claim is pending.

Hesdorffer examined several patients who developed cancer after working at or near Ground Zero.

"One or more of these chemicals and these fumes may very well have been the cause of the cancers that these patients developed," he wrote.

"In all instances, the cancers developed in young, otherwise healthy individuals with no personal or family histories of cancer."

How cases are resolved

The recovery efforts at Ground Zero and Fresh Kills landfill resulted in 1,700 notices of claim against the city. Of those, 1,500 led to lawsuits.

The vast majority of those plaintiffs eventually dropped their suits to pursue settlements with the federal Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001. Under the terms of the federal fund, anyone who accepts a settlement cannot also file suit.

How these legal claims are ultimately resolved has no bearing on a tragic fact People who helped sift through the remains of Sept. 11, 2001, are developing serious, sometimes fatal, illnesses.



This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of democracy, economic, environmental, human rights, political, scientific, and social justice issues, among others. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.

Take me back to learn more