Were you a student, or a teacher or were you employed at Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan at the time of 9/11 or during the 9 months following 9/11? A growing number of students, faculty, staff and rescue and recovery workers who were present at Stuyvesant HS have since been diagnosed with cancers and other illnesses that the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund may provide compensation for.
Stuyvesant High School became contaminated while in use during the cleanup process following 9/11.
For about a month following 9/11, Stuyvesant was used as a command center and staging area for officials and rescue and recovery workers. The workers who were walking back and forth from Ground Zero to the high school brought the deadly dust and other contaminants (1) into the school on their boots and contaminated the building.
In September 2016, industrial hygienist David Newman was quoted in Sonia Epstein's article in The Stuyvesant Spectator (2):
Displaced students from affected schools in the vicinity attended other schools following the attack.
Many students attending schools within the blocks nearest to Ground Zero had nowhere else to go to attend school after the tragedy. Plans were made for these students to share space (3) in other schools also near Ground Zero. Stuyvesant High School students attended Brooklyn Technical High School between September 21, 2001 and October 9, 2001 until Stuyvesant reopened, less than 1 month after 9/11. Public School 234 and Public School 150, both in TriBeCa, Public School 89 in Battery Park City, Intermediate School 89, High School for Leadership and Public Service and the High School of Economics and Finance were all among the schools that had to share space in schools near of the affected area.
Following much debate, Stuyvesant High School reopened without a thorough cleaning on October 9, 2001.
When the decision to reopen the school was made, fires were still burning at Ground Zero and workers were shuttling debris to a barge located just 150 feet north of the school. Unfortunately, students, faculty and staff were told to return to a dust-filled building. Some teachers concerned about their own health opted to transfer and teach at other schools, but most students set on earning their diplomas from one of the most prestigious public secondary schools in the nation felt they had no other option but to return to school following a go-ahead by public officials that the air was safe to breathe.
Those officials were wrong and Stuy students have suffered the consequences.
Students and teachers developed a variety of cancers and other diseases directly related to the deadly dust and debris from 9/11, Ground Zero and the ensuing clean-up process going on all around the school. Marilena Christodoulou, President of the Parents Association and a group of parents were very concerned with the dust that was permeating all areas of the school from the ventilation system and carpeting to the upholstery in the theater while other parents and the Board of Education were more worried about kids missing the educational experience at Stuyvesant High. The contaminated school required a deep and thorough cleaning and ongoing monitoring for toxins. The BOE verbally assured the PA that they had thoroughly cleaned the school and surrounding areas and would monitor the levels. Without waiting for the results, the BOE opened Stuyvesant. Students and teachers began complaining of headaches, nosebleeds and difficulty breathing. After much back and forth and many hearings concerning the health and well being of students, in the Spring of 2002 the Parents’ Association threatened to sue the Board of Education. Stuyvesant was finally closed over the summer of 2002 and received the systematic cleaning it should have gotten before students, faculty and staff were given the green light to return in October of 2001.
A cancer cluster from Stuyvesant has recently materialized.
Tragically, the cancer latency period has come to fruition in the years since for many of the Stuyvesant occupants who regularly occupied that building during the 10 months following 9/11. Many doctors have referred to it as a cancer cluster. Students who have been diagnosed with a variety of cancers and other lung diseases were surprised to discover they were not alone in contracting these life-threatening illnesses from their time at Stuyvesant. It took time for some victims to make the correlation between their illness and attending school day in and day out at the contaminated building in 2001 and 2002. Certainly, many more victims are out there and have not made the connection.
If you have developed any of the health complications outlined in The Zadroga Act, you may be eligible to receive funds from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). Please contact attorney Noah Kushlefsky to discuss your eligibility for healthcare benefits and financial compensation.
Sources for this post include:
(1) New York Post, "Cancer cluster at top NYC school near Ground Zero," by Carl Campanile, November 9, 2017
(2) The Spectator, Stuyvesant High School Newspaper, "The Cost of Breathing," (Pages 21-22), by Sonia Epstein, September 9, 2016
(3) The New York Times, After the Attacks: The Schools; Stuyvesant High Students To Attend Brooklyn Tech, by Abby Goodnough, September 15, 2001