New York, NY – Emotions were tense in Lower Manhattan in the weeks after 9/11, as military units patrolled the streets and people worried that another terrorist attack could occur at any time.

Michael Barasch.

Yet, within a few weeks, schools from preschools to high schools were reopened – even Stuyvesant High School, which was across the street from Ground Zero. Within days of re-opening, a barge collecting Ground Zero debris operated right outside the school’s windows. Despite all of the infrastructure in Lower Manhattan, including schools, being heavily contaminated with known carcinogens, the population was urged by the government to resume their lives.

Despite enormous challenges, teachers successfully reassured frightened parents and helped children and young adults continue their academic and social development.

Most importantly, Lower Manhattan teachers – members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) – kept their students safe.

Today, twenty years later, these teachers are confronted with a different kind of risk – the 68 types of cancer (among them skin, prostate, breast, and lung) and many respiratory illnesses resulting from exposure to Ground Zero toxins after 9/11.

UFT members and leadership worked tirelessly alongside unions, 9/11 advocates, and lobbyists to secure health care and compensation for first responders and survivors with 9/11-related health conditions, including many of their former students.

The UFT was integral in helping to convince Congress to create the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), providing free, comprehensive medical care for 9/11-related illnesses and tax-free awards for pain and suffering, lost earnings, and benefits for surviving spouses and family members.

Yet despite the enormous effort put forth by so many to secure these critical government programs, only about 8-percent of eligible 9/11 survivors (non-responders) have registered with the WTC Health Program and the 9/11 VCF. 

The teachers who protected New York City’s students need to know about these resources. It is our duty to spread the word about these life changing benefits.

If you were in Lower Manhattan on 9/11 or in the eight months that followed, you are eligible to register with the World Trade Center Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund — even if you are currently healthy.

Barasch & McGarry, Lawyers for the 9/11 Community, which represents 30,000 members of the 9/11 community, has proudly advocated for union members for more than twenty-five years. 

Visit or call 800-314-0683 today.



2 thoughts on “Twenty Years After Re-opening Classrooms Closed By 9/11, Teachers at Risk ”

  1. As a parent of a Lower Manhattan student who was present downtown on 9/11, I am tired of lawyers seeking to hook clients while misstating facts and recommending that we ask the City’s Department of Education to take the lead in addressing problems that the DOE originally caused.

    In last week’s op-ed by attorney Michael Barasch, “Twenty Years After Re-Opening Classrooms Closed by 9/11, Teachers at Risk,” Mr. Barasch says you can “register” with the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) and get health care even if you are healthy. He is wrong. Unlike 9/11 responders, former students, residents and area workers (like teachers) need to have a 9/11-related health condition to join the WTCHP.

    You can “register” for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) even if you are well. The WTCHP is an entirely different program with different eligibility, but Barasch doesn’t seem to understand that. And, by the way, you “Apply” to the WTCHP. The WTCHP is much more than a “pass-through” for those filing VCF claims.

    Barasch appears to believe that large numbers of former NYC school students are physically sick from 9/11. But what everyone deeply involved in this issue hears from these former students, now young adults, is that they want mental health care for lingering PTSD. We also know that our children are at risk for a range of physical health impacts, which is why we have been pushing for more research on reproductive problems, to name only one example.

    Let’s be clear, nobody protected downtown students, teachers, school staff, residents and area workers when we were all told by the City and the EPA that the air was safe to breathe and the City reopened the schools just weeks after 9/11.

    At the time, I was a member of the Stuyvesant Parents Association. We told the Department of Education and the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations that this was a mistake, that they were putting our kids, and their teachers, at risk. Congressman Jerrold Nadler tried, the Stuyvesant PA, along with parents from other downtown schools tried, and 9/11 Environmental Action tried, but the City and the Department of Education went ahead and opened the schools, claiming they were safe.

    Stuyvesant High School was not safe, and we have the independent sampling results to prove it. Other schools, like the two high schools closest to Ground Zero, unfortunately, did not have the wherewithal to do independent testing, but we have every reason to suspect that every WTC contaminant that was in the Deutsche Bank building across the street ended up in their school buildings.

    A couple of years after 9/11, when the WTC Health Registry was formed and asked for the DOE’s help to reach school parents to enroll their children so that their health would be tracked for decades as part of a youth “cohort” within the Registry, the DOE adamantly refused. Former downtown students will be dealing with the impact of this reckless decision reckless decisions for decades to come.

    Finally, over the years, the DOE has done multiple mailings to the households of former students, producing little or no result. Mailings are not the answer. (Believe me, I have been in countless discussions over the years on how to reach 9/11-affected young adults.)

    Now, lawyers trolling for clients are suggesting it is a good idea to let the DOE lead this effort? Thanks but no thanks.
    Those who were enrolled or working in schools downtown or, for that matter, any resident or area worker who thinks they may have a 9/11-related condition should come forward and contact the WTCHP ( and learn more about the Health Program or they should contact community organizations like 9/11 Environmental Action ( that have been fighting for decades to get help to those still suffering from the toxins at Ground Zero.

    The survivor community is still working on ways to make sure that former students in Lower Manhattan schools get the help they need when they need it.

    To this 9/11 school parent and 9/11 health activist, a proposal by a VCF attorney that DOE do yet another mailing seems like the “tail wagging the dog.”

    – Rachel Lidov is a 9/11 school parent and former activist in the Stuyvesant Parents Association. She has been active for more than 20 years in the struggle for proper health care for those impacted by the collapse of the World Trade Center

    1. Barasch & McGarry submitted the following reply to Rachel Lidov:

      “Barasch & McGarry proudly represents thousands of former students, teachers, and other education professionals who were exposed to Ground Zero toxins when schools reopened after 9/11.
      We agree with the Stuyvesant Parents Association that government agencies, companies, and other organizations that were based in Lower Manhattan should dramatically expand their outreach to 9/11survivors, who are still at risk of developing 68 types of cancer and many respiratory illnesses.
      Twenty years after the federal government falsely told New Yorkers that the air near Ground Zero was safe to breathe, many people are still unaware of their right to access health care and compensation.
      We will continue to work with members of the 9/11community to spread the word about the World Trade Center Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.”

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