This is a post inspired by events of 14 years ago, part of a #SeptemberChallenge hosted by Everyday Gyaan. (Please visit her blog after you read my post for an amazing September 11 post from India.)
They linger, the civilian casualties of September 11, 2001.
In August, a woman who became known as the "Dust Lady" of the 9/11 attacks died from stomach cancer. She is not the first civilian casualty of 9/11 to die from medical causes and not the crash of airplanes or the ground destruction of that day.
She won't be the last. The rates of cancer in first responders that day are known, but what is less well known is the number of civilian casualties, still dying 14 years after the attacks.
Is this a controversial statement? No, I don't think so. I may know one of these civilian casualties.
One of those civilian casualties may have been the singer Donna Summer.
Others were less famous, but they suffer just the same.
One may have been my uncle. who passed away in 2005. The plume of toxic smoke passed over his Brooklyn neighborhood. His health deteriorated. Another may be a childhood friend, who lives in a nearby neighborhood. The dust fell all over her house and yard. In August of 2012 I visited her and her husband, and she showed me how she was still finding dust in nooks and crannies of her house.
At night, she coughed much of the night, so loud I could hear her on a different floor of the house.
Now, she is ill with lung cancer.
We will never know for sure, officially, but I believe the illnesses of both individuals were both, at least in part, related to 9/11.
"9/11", in our country, has a certain meaning. We all know it means
"September 11, 2001", also known as the day that terrorist attacks in
three points of our country (the World Trade Center in New York City,
the Pentagon in Virginia, and a Pennsylvania farm where a plane destined
for still another target crashed) took over 3,000 lives.
I grew up in New York City. 13 of these people who died (including a fireman, Christian Regenhard) went to my high school, and some others from my school helped at Ground Zero
in the aftermath. I know several people who saw one or both World Trade
Center towers fall. I know people who knew people who died there.
knew someone, up here in Binghamton, who lost one of his two sons. A
part of him died that day, and he took early retirement later that
year. He lost his other son several years later, in what I suspect was "collateral damage".
I felt, years ago, that life would go on eventually, and September 11
would again be a day during which people in the United States could be
happy. We would still remember, but we could also be happy. In fact, I blogged about this belief on September 11, 2001. Now, I wonder if I was wrong.
Can we truly forget this day as long as the civilian deaths continue? And it isn't just people in our country. Thousands have died in the Middle East and in Afghanistan, due to the aftermath of 9/11. Thousands more have become refugees, or slaves, or victims of sexual violence.
So much suffering.
We had no idea, on September 12, 2001, exactly what had been put in motion. Now, we have a better idea, with no idea how it will all end.
Our world will never be the same again.