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Ducking WTC Blame

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Letter to the Editor of The Chief, 10/26/07:

Ducking WTC Blame

To the Editor:

The City of New York and Contractors of 9/11 have expressed interest in negotiating a total aggregate settlement with sick and dying first-responders who were exposed to toxic air at the World Trade Center. This settlement will offer a certain amount of money and the city and contractors will walk away without answering questions about their negligence and lies. The money will be divided between lawyers (40 percent) and the 9/11 afflicted litigants (60 percent). It has been three years of arduous litigation.

Is this the answer to a troubling case where the Federal Government and the Giuliani administration lied to everyone about the quality of air? What is to stop the lies and failures from happening again? On 9/13/01 Christie¬† Whitman and the EPA told us the air quality was fine. The White House sanitized the EPA press releases every day before they were given to media. Don’t alarm anyone. Don’t err on the side of caution.

In late September 2001, the city Department of Environmental Protection had tests showing high levels of asbestos at the WTC. Giuliani then told us the air quality was fine. Schools resumed and workers, children and first-responders were unnecessarily exposed to the toxic air of WTC. Rudy Giuliani placed an inexperienced city agency (Department of Design and Construction) in charge of the site. Proper face-fitted respirators weren’t issued to first-responders until November 2001. This was total negligence by the city.

By making a settlement offer now, the city is trying to buy people off with money and not accept responsibility for the tragic mistakes of the Giuliani administration and Federal Government. No one has the right to lie to their constituents. The terrorists killed 2,749 heroes on 9/11, but the lies and failures of government will likely kill and destroy the quality of life for many more.

I lay in a coma with respiratory failure (ARDS) in 2005 for 16 days and miraculously survived. Medications are now part of my daily life and will be forever. Many sick construction workers and volunteers now have to decide between food on the table for their families or medications. The toll of sickness on the first-responders hasn’t seen its full disastrous effects yet.

I do not intend to let this happen to anyone ever again. The Federal Government and the Giuliani administration must be held accountable for their lies about quality of air and failure to provide life-saving respirators to those who heroically risked their life and health. Money is not my issue; accountability is. Let us learn from our mistakes and give our first-responders the proper equipment needed if we are attacked again. Let’s hear the truth about the quality of air and the environment. Never forget 9/11 and never again should we be manipulated so grievously by our government and leaders.

JIM RICHES, Deputy Chief, FDNY

Editor’s note: Chief Riches is a 31-year veteran of the FDNY who lost his son, FF Jimmy Riches, on 9/11 and led search and recovery effort at Ground Zero from 9/11/01 until 5/30/02.

See also, Other letters to the editor by this FDNY Deputy Chief:

Giuliani, 9/11 and the Truth , 7/27/07

Giuliani’s No Hero of 9/11, 3/23/07