New recog­ni­tion for a longer-term death toll from 9/11

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jen­nifer Peltz

NEW YORK >> When the names of nearly 3,000 Sept. 11 vic­tims are read aloud Wed­nes­day at the World Trade Cen­ter, a half-dozen stacks of stone will qui­etly salute an un­told num­ber of peo­ple who aren’t on the list.

The gran­ite slabs were in­stalled on the memorial plaza this spring. They rec­og­nize an ini­tially un­seen toll of the 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tacks: fire­fight­ers, po­lice and oth­ers who died or fell ill af­ter ex­po­sure to tox­ins un­leashed in the wreck­age.

The un­usual ad­di­tion re­flects a memorial that is evolv­ing as the af­ter­math of 9/11 does. And for fam­i­lies like Joanna Reis­man’s, the new 9/11 Memorial Glade gives their loved ones a place in the land­scape of re­mem­brance at ground zero.

A fire­fighter’s widow, she em­pha­sizes that the losses thou­sands of fam­i­lies suf­fered on Sept. 11 were hor­rific.

“We just have to rec­og­nize that there were oth­ers, too,” says Reis­man, whose 54-yearold hus­band, Lt. Steven Reis­man, searched through the World Trade Cen­ter de­bris for re­mains, and then died in 2014 of brain cancer. He was 54.

Sub­tle and sculp­tural, the memorial glade fea­tures six stone pieces in­laid with steel sal­vaged trade cen­ter steel. They jut from the ground

along a tree-lined path­way.

Un­like the plaza’s mas­sive wa­ter­fall pools memo­ri­al­iz­ing peo­ple killed on 9/11 — those whose names are read at an­niver­sary cer­e­monies — the boul­ders are not in­scribed with the names of those they honor. There is no fi­nite list of them, at least not yet.

In­stead, nearby signs ded­i­cate the glade “to those whose ac­tions in our time of need led to their in­jury, sick­ness, and death,” in­clud­ing first re­spon­ders, re­cov­ery work­ers, sur­vivors and com­mu­nity mem­bers at the at­tack sites at the trade cen­ter, at the Pen­tagon and near Shanksvill­e, Penn­syl­va­nia.

The col­lapse of the trade cen­ter’s twin tow­ers pro­duced thick dust clouds, and fires burned for months in the rub­ble.

Many res­cue and re­cov­ery work­ers later de­vel­oped res­pi­ra­tory and di­ges­tive sys­tem ail­ments po­ten­tially linked to in­haled and swal­lowed dust. Some were di­ag­nosed with other ill­nesses, in­clud­ing cancer.

Re­search con­tin­ues into whether those ill­nesses are tied to 9/11 tox­ins. A 2018 study did not find higher-than-nor­mal death rates over­all among peo­ple ex­posed to the dust and smoke, but re­searchers have noted more deaths than ex­pected from brain cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lym­phoma and cer­tain other dis­eases; an un­usual num­ber of sui­cides among res­cue and re­cov­ery work­ers. Stud­ies also have sug­gested that highly ex­posed work­ers may face more prob­lems, in­clud­ing some­what higher death rates and a mod­estly higher risk of heart trou­ble, than les­s­ex­posed col­leagues.

Over 51,000 peo­ple have ap­plied to a vic­tims com­pen­sa­tion fund that makes pay­ments to peo­ple with ill­nesses po­ten­tially re­lated to 9/11; it has awarded over In this Jan. 8, 2019 file photo, stone cut­ters Evan Ladd, left, and Andy He­bert cut a piece of gran­ite at Rock of Ages in Barre, Vt., for use in the 9/11 Memorial Glade in New York. Set in a glade of trees at the Na­tional Septem­ber 11 Memorial & Mu­seum, the gran­ite slabs rec­og­nize an ini­tially un­seen toll of the 2001 ter­ror at­tacks: fire­fight­ers, po­lice and oth­ers who died or fell ill af­ter ex­po­sure to tox­ins un­leashed in the wreck­age.

$5.5 bil­lion so far. Af­ter im­pas­sioned ad­vo­cacy, law­mak­ers this sum­mer en­sured it won’t run out of money .

None of that was fore­seen when the memorial de­sign was cho­sen in Jan­uary 2004. But the se­lec­tion jury “knew that we’d be pick­ing some­thing that al­lowed for an evo­lu­tion of the site,” says mem­ber James E. Young, a re­tired Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts Amherst pro­fes­sor.

As at­ten­tion grew to the deaths of ail­ing 9/11 res­cue, re­cov­ery and cleanup work­ers, some memo­ri­als else­where be­gan adding their names . A re­mem­brance wall fo­cused on them was ded­i­cated in 2011 in Nescon­set, on Long Is­land.

But the trade cen­ter memorial has a “re­spon­si­bil­ity — es­pe­cially where it’s lo­cated, on sa­cred ground — to con­tinue to tell the story,” says John Feal, who lost part of a foot while work­ing as a de­mo­li­tion su­per­vi­sor there and later founded a char­ity that main­tains the Nescon­set memorial.

Ground zero memorial lead­ers had mis­giv­ings at first, memorial CEO Alice Green­wald says. They noted that the health prob­lems were doc­u­mented in the below-ground Sept. 11

mu­seum, though it gets far fewer visi­tors than the memorial plaza. And the lead­ers felt pro­tec­tive of the mem­ory of peo­ple killed on 9/11.

Re­spon­ders and health ad­vo­cates “could see what we couldn’t see right away ... that this was re­ally some­thing that needed to be com­mem­o­rated, as much as doc­u­mented,” Green­wald said.

Plans for the $5 mil­lion glade, de­signed by memorial plaza ar­chi­tects Michael Arad and Peter Walker, were ul­ti­mately an­nounced in 2017.

The tra­di­tional im­age of a memorial is an im­mutable tribute, lit­er­ally writ­ten in stone — if also po­ten­tially sus­cep­ti­ble to shift­ing views of its sub­ject, as demon­strated by on­go­ing de­bate over Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues around the Amer­i­can South.

But some­times mon­u­ments adapt to take on more mean­ings.

Some memo­ri­als built af­ter one war get ex­panded or reded­i­cated to in­clude veter­ans of other wars. A memorial to vic­tims of the 1993 World Trade Cen­ter bomb­ing was de­stroyed on 9/11, and their names were in­cluded in the cur­rent memorial.

Af­ter the Viet­nam Veter­ans Memorial was built in Wash­ing­ton, ad­di­tions nearby rec­og­nized nurses and other women who served, and veter­ans who died years later from last­ing ef­fects of the de­fo­liant Agent Orange, post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der or other in­juries that ini­tially weren’t rec­og­nized.

Such memo­ri­als speak to a change over time in how, and whom, mon­u­ments com­mem­o­rate, said Kirk Sav­age, a Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh art and ar­chi­tec­ture his­tory pro­fes­sor and memo­ri­als ex­pert.

Rather than a 19th-cen­tury leader on a pedestal, newer memo­ri­als of­ten ac­knowl­edge ev­ery­day peo­ple’s in­volve­ment in his­toric events and shift fo­cus “from rec­og­niz­ing peo­ple that we em­u­late to peo­ple that we grieve for,” he said.

Caryn Pfeifer has had many peo­ple to grieve for over the past 18 years.

First there were the col­leagues and friends whom her hus­band, fire­fighter Ray Pfeifer, lost on 9/11 and whose re­mains he sought in the de­bris. Then there were those who got sick and died over the years, as he fought for health care for first re­spon­ders while bat­tling his own kid­ney cancer.

Now she also mourns her hus­band. He died in 2017, at 59.

With the new memorial glade, she says, “now we have a place to go and sit, think about ev­ery­body, and just pray for the next poor guy.”


A vis­i­tor touches one of the gran­ite slabs at the 9/11 Memorial Glade at the Na­tional Septem­ber 11 Memorial & Mu­seum in New York.


A rose rests next to a pho­to­graph of New York City Fire Depart­ment Lt. Steven Reis­man in the 9/11 Memorial Glade near the Na­tional Septem­ber 11 Memorial & Mu­seum. Reis­man searched through the World Trade Cen­ter de­bris for re­mains, and then died in 2014 of brain cancer at age 54.


Tina Tilearcio pauses at a stone that is part of the new 9/11 Memorial Glade on the grounds of the Na­tional Septem­ber 11 Memorial & Mu­seum, af­ter its ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony in New York. Her hus­band, Robert Tilearcio, died in 2017 of ill­ness re­lated to his re­cov­ery work at ground zero.


Peo­ple gather around stones that are part of the new 9/11 Memorial Glade, on the grounds of the Na­tional Septem­ber 11 Memorial and Mu­seum in New York.


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