The New York City Department of Education (DOE) recently announced a new effort to contact all 19,000 former students who attended public schools in Lower Manhattan near Ground Zero on and after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks regarding their eligibility for benefits under the Victims Compensation Fund (VCF) and the World Trade Center Health Program. The DOE is also reaching out to 3,000 teachers who worked at public schools in the vicinity of Ground Zero. The letters sent to the students and teachers will inform them of their potential eligibility for benefits under the VCF if they are certified as having suffered one of 68 9/11-related cancers or any other illness covered by the World Trade Center Health Program.
The announcement comes amid increased public recognition of the dangers public school students in Lower Manhattan faced during and after the attacks. The elite Stuyvesant High School, located mere blocks from Ground Zero, was used as a staging ground by rescue and recovery workers after 9/11. The school reopened less than a month after the attacks even though there was uncertainty about whether it was safe for students to return. Stuyvesant High was recently featured in the documentary In the Shadow of the Towers, which focuses on the school and its students during the events of 9/11. Lila Nordstrom, a former Stuyvesant student who runs the group Students of 9/11, applauded the DOE’s actions, stating “I’m happy the city is showing a commitment to reaching the 19,000 public-school students who returned to lower Manhattan after 9/11 before it was safe to breath [sic].”
While it is well-known that firefighters and other first-responders were exposed to cancer-causing dust from the rubble of Ground Zero, its effects on students in the area are only recently coming to light. In 2017, it was reported that a cancer cluster had developed among former students of public schools in Lower Manhattan consisting of 12 teachers and 12 students. Of the 12 students, half suffered from cancer or lung disease. Among those were a 15-year-old with thyroid cancer, a 28-year-old with breast cancer, and a 29-year-old with colon cancer. An attorney for the plaintiffs in those cases feared that his clients were merely the tip of the iceberg of cancers among graduates of schools near Ground Zero.
In addition to the letters, the DOE also plans to launch a social media campaign to get the information out to as many former students as possible around the country. The DOE is also co-hosting a joint information session with the United Federation of Teachers to raise awareness about the health issues facing former students in the Ground Zero area.
Contact an Experienced WTC Lawyer
If you were a student in Lower Manhattan during or after the attacks of 9/11, you may be eligible for compensation or free medical benefits. For more information about your eligibility, please contact a WTC lawyer at Pitta & Baione by using our online contact form or by calling us at 844-WTC-COMP.