Hidden Heroes of 9/11
From In El Correo
By Olga Acosta
The tragedy of the World Trade Center left thousands of victims
and many heroes. However, today many of those heroes are victims
that no one wants to discuss.
These are the people who were and
still are working where the twin towers used to rise.
“We belong to local 78, a union that organizes personnel expert
in the handling of asbestos, lead and hazardous materials. There
are 3000 people working, all immigrants. Fifty per cent of us are
Latino” said Edison Severino, director of the Comite Inmigrantes
Unidos, an organization created to fight for the right of these
workers. These people cleaned the tons of trash and highly toxic
debris that was left after the terrorist attacks.
“We were there for a year, working twelve hours shifts,
seven days a week. We also went to Washington and to the Post Office
the Anthrax cases” said Jorge Roldan, also a member of the
However, today instead of honoring them for their invaluable
labor, they will be left without jobs.
“The law has changed since 9/11. Before, anyone could obtain
a license to work with asbestos, today you must have an ID from
of Motor Vehicles and you must have a Social Security Number…almost
80 percent of the workers of local 78 do not have this document.
Of course, when the job needed to be done nobody asked us for our
social security” said Roldan.
As if this wasn’t enough,
these workers are already feeling the effects of working with hazardous
“We are sick, not only because of the psychological impact
of the tragedy, but also because of the inhalation of these products
given us insomnia, allergies, headaches and alteration in our menstrual
cycles” said Anita Bermudez, Ecuadorian who has worked for
more than a decade with local 78.
Bermudez was part of the team
in charge of the cleaning up of Anthrax. To do that she had to
consume Cipro to fight against the hazardous
bacteria. This “medicine” causes a reduction of the
“The consequences can be worse. The minerals that we work with will
stay in our bodies for years and will later take the form of arthritis,
respiratory deficiencies that may cause death and various types
of cancers” said Valencia, an expert in hazardous materials.
“When we worked in the towers we had to wear the required
protective suits, but for lunch we were allowed to leave so the
were gone at midday” said Elena Corrales one of the workers
Jorge Roldan explained that people were never told the
risk they ran due to environmental hazards.
While many of these
workers will be left without a job and will collect unemployment,
Local 78 is looking to hire 200 new employees,
according to the ads that they have posted on the internet.
same time, in order to receive medical attention many of the workers
must have worked 400 hours, a number of hours that
many did not work.
“We have no protection. Nobody wants to help us. Thousands of us
are without jobs after we have served the nation” said Ivonne
Leroux, another affected worker.
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Translated from Spanish By Valeria Treves