Historical Context

On September 11, 2001 terrorists crashed two hijacked planes into One and Two World Trade Center. In the space of two hours, the towers collapsed and not long after that, 7 World Trade Center collapsed as well. Nearly 2,800 people died, including 343 firefighters, 23 police officers, 37 Port Authority police officers, and more than 2,200 civilians.

Hundreds of thousands of people were exposed or potentially exposed to dust, particulates, and other environmental contaminants on that day, and endured or witnessed deeply traumatic events. Fires burned and smoldered at the site for months. Many who lived, worked or attended school in the area found their lives upended and their livelihoods damaged or completely destroyed. Thousands were temporarily displaced.

In the hours and days following the attacks, rescue workers, volunteers, contractors, and others from across the country descended on Ground Zero to search for potential survivors. In late September, that search came to an end and efforts turned to an unprecedented recovery, cleanup, and restoration of New York City’s infrastructure. Tens of thousands of responders and others worked at the World Trade Center, the Fresh Kills landfill, and related sites. The work took ten months and involved employees from dozens of City, State and federal agencies and the tireless efforts of responders, laborers, contractors, volunteers, and community organizations.

Along with the death and devastation immediately wrought by the attacks, there was concern from the outset that the collapse of the Twin Towers could have consequences for the health of responders, clean-up workers, residents, office workers, school children, and others. By the evening of September 11th, the City’s Departments of Health and Environmental Protection began to assess environmental conditions and what protections would be necessary.

A growing body of evidence suggests that significant physical and mental health conditions have emerged that are associated with exposure to the disaster.