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Hundreds of women have finally registered for 9/11 victims' benefits for cancers

The annual Tribute in Light is illuminated above Lower Manhattan on the 21st anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in New York.
Julia Nikhinson
The annual Tribute in Light is illuminated above Lower Manhattan on the 21st anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in New York.

Thursday marked one year since the survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks were able to seek medical coverage for uterine and endometrial cancers.

For more than two decades, the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and the World Trade Center Health program have provided free healthcare and financial compensation to 9/11 survivors and their families. This includes first responders, those who participated in cleanup at Ground Zero, volunteers and those who lived, learned and worked in the area.

By Jan. 18, 2023, all types of uterine cancer, including endometrial cancer, were finally added to the list of World Trade Center-related health conditions.

While over 90% of responders are currently registered with the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, less than 10% of survivors who worked, lived or studied in Lower Manhattan — many more of whom are women — are registered with the fund.

Sara Director, partner at law firm Barasch and McGarry, represents more than 200 members of the 9/11 community who have been diagnosed with uterine and endometrial cancer, among which are 27 women from Long Island and five from Connecticut.

Director said the reason so many survivors have not registered is because they are either unaware these programs exist, they haven't connected their illness to 9/11, or they feel guilty about taking the money.

"I believe it's guilt," she said. "It's the fear that if I make a claim I'm taking money out of somebody else's pocket, which simply is not true. The compensation fund is fully funded through 2090."

"A teacher who obtains an award is not taking money away from an FDNY firefighter or an NYPD widow, let's say. The money is earmarked for each and every one that is suffering from a 9/11 condition," Director added.

She said that while hundreds of women have registered for the program in the past year, many more are still unaware that they are eligible for benefits. She also said that because the link between uterine and endometrial cancer was discovered so recently, it is likely that more illnesses will be linked to 9/11 as time goes on.

"When I first started doing this work, there were no cancers that were linked to the toxins, and here we are in 2024 and 69 cancers are linked. So unfortunately, I think as time goes by, or fortunately, more illnesses will be added to the running list as more people get sick, more people die, and more investigations done into the link between the toxins and our health,” Director said.

There are currently more than 120,000 members enrolled in the World Trade Center Health program, with over 26,000 members being women.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since 2001 "over 74,000 people have been diagnosed with physical and mental health conditions resulting from exposure to the dust, debris and traumatic events of 9/11."

Bill Rodrigues is a graduate intern at WSHU.