CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – At the time of 9/11, many first responders who were called in the recovery efforts were only thinking about helping those who were hurt and never stopped to think about the medical conditions that would follow.
Thousands of first responders have lost their lives due to the unsafe air quality they faced while assisting in the recovery or cleanup of the twin towers in New York after the 9/11 attacks. Many of these heroes, who are still alive, are facing challenges beyond mental health every day.
Imagine spending part of your life helping those who were hurt during 9/11, only to wake up for the rest of your life realizing you’re the one who needs help now that it is all over.
“We encountered diseases. We mostly die of cancer,” Terry Wright, who worked with the Red Cross and FEMA during the attacks. “I don’t smell, I don’t taste, at all.”
Wright remembers inhaling the heavy smoke, flames and particles in the air, although workers wore surgical masks.
“You look inside of it, it was black,” Wright said. In March of ‘02, the EPA with the federal government said the air quality wasn’t safe and that hurt all of us, but we got the job done.”
Those workers who got the job done, a lot of them now are honored on a wall.
“It has 2,300 names on it. People died since 9/11 that worked to clean up, picked up, removed debris,” Wright said. “On September 18, 2021 we will add 293 more names to our wall that died this past year.”
Wright says in his years after 9/11, he gets a yearly medical exam which doesn’t bring good news.
“After you get your medical exam and you’re sitting there and you’re sitting across from a doctor and they don’t even know how to tell you, even if you’re good. Your blood work. Just here’s your blood work, here’s you x-ray. Really? I can’t pass a breathing test,” Wright said.
Wright says he’s glad he doesn’t have cancer and is thankful he’s one of the responders still alive.