There are just under seven billion people in the world. Just under seven billion stories to tell. Each one unique. One people habituating this Earth. Every day, those of us who wake up to see the morning, go through our daily lives. The hustle and bustle. The daily grind. Sometimes we in between catch diseases. Other times we don’t. Sometimes we contract them unnoticed. With no sudden impact to or obvious symptoms in our health, we go. But the diseases remain. Festering in our bodies. Settling in their new found home. Throwing house-warming parties after another.
Some of these diseases eventually show up after a while; a couple of years, maybe within a few decades. They announce their arrival with a big bang. Like a one-man marching band, just not in pleasurable terms. Then there are other types of diseases that officially inflict you after a lengthy 30-50 years. In the league of really mean sicknesses, they are among the elite because these bad boys roughly give you about a year to live after diagnosis. If diseases were soldiers, this group would be compared to the Navy Seals (with no disrespect or ridicule to the real top dogs). And so until that time comes, until the band comes marching in, exponentially decreasing the pain threshold day by day, we all ‘just under seven billion’ of us go on, living as we do.
The fact that we may be connected with several of the many people we pass by in our lives, lies unbeknown to us. The very fact that among us, in this world are people who share a common misfortune; that they are bearers of a malignant cancer called mesothelioma!
Not many people know about mesothelioma, more are aware of cancer. Probably because the former is a rarer form of the latter. Ironic? Maybe. Not funny? Definitely! Mesothelioma, lung cancer, respiratory diseases, throat cancer can broadly be gotten by inhalation of asbestos or smoke, excessive exposure to smog over periods of time,… exclusively breathing within a large billow of debris of destroyed buildings and/or building material (in no particular order).
Debris billows like those of September 11 2001, when the World Trade Center was horrifyingly ripped down by some of the world’s biggest cowards (popularly called terrorists) in front of the eyes of the entire world. They took days to clear out from Lower Manhattan. On a lesser scale perhaps, the type of thick haze of dust that veiled Port-Au-Prince and much of Haiti after the most ferocious earthquake in recent times reduced much of the Caribbean’s most culturally rich nation to rubble in less than a minute. How many people do you think got affected by any of these kind of illnesses from the living nightmare of 9/11? How many first responders? How many Ground-Zero workers? All of them? Half? Some? Who knows. Only Heavens knows what the equivalent statistic for having-inhaled-debris-now-developing-some-kind-of-respiratory-related-cancerous-sickness Haitians is, who after the their tragedy remain incredibly strong in faith. It is amazing how survivors of disasters across the world remain strong in spirit!
Recently President Barack Obama signed ‘The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act’ into law. ‘The new law will provide aid to the survivors of the terror attacks and to those who became ill working in the ruins. The $4.2 billion measure will be paid for with a fee on some foreign companies that get U.S. government procurement contracts’ (The Associated Press (2011). Obama signs Sept. 11 first responders bill]. The fund lends a much needed helping hand to those health-wise affected by the attacks on American soil. Many suffered conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorders, varying degrees of paranoia and schizophrenia, depression, incapacitation, panic attacks (I’ve recently had one of those and I can say they’re VERY frightening) etc. With the dawn of a new decade in the new millennium, the bill finally addresses plights of innocent survivors of 9/11, who woke up that day in 2001 to (just) rightfully go about their daily lives.
While it may be argued that it’s too late to offer any respite to since it’s been over nine years in the making, it’s better late than never. It can said that the overall financial value is too low, but it’s nonetheless helpful and surely better than nothing. This type of reasoning cannot be dismissed as as simplistic or naive because in account of survivors of the September 11 terror attacks who have over time developed (multiple) health problems, they have been and continue living in pain and despair. Can such a fund then be described as useless or out of place? The benefits stipulated by the new measure will undoubtedly serve succor and restore a level of quality of life and welfare. Whats most inspiring about the The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is that it compensates Americans & Non-Residents who survived the most atrocious act of terrorism in contemporary history. The act is therefore unifying as it is there for all survivors. It is a continuation of the American people’s resolve not be broken and to stand strong in the face of terrorism. If that’s not heroic, I don’t know what is!
This article is dedicated to all survivors of disasters, natural or terrorist-orchestrated, who have the strongest measure of human spirit. My prayers go out to people who have died from these freak events. Documented or not, they will never be forgotten!