NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The deadline for some 9/11 survivors to sign up for the Victim Compensation Fund is looming and advocates are trying to get the word out.
When the Twin Towers fell in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, a noxious brew of toxins swirled through the air around the site.
First responders who spent weeks at the site cleaning up and searching for victims continued to breathe in the fumes, and many developed cancers related to their work decades later.
However, advocates say that the toxic fumes did not discriminate and those who lived, worked and went to school around Ground Zero in the months after 9/11 were also exposed, and can sign up for the VCF, even if they don’t have symptoms of an illness.
“Whether you're a cop, a firefighter, a construction worker working on the pile, or a 12-year-old kid who went to Stuyvesant, these toxins attacked everybody,” says 9/11 survivor and advocate John Feal.
Those who lived, worked and went to school in Lower Manhattan between Sept. 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002 are asked to sign up.
“We're imploring everybody to register before the 29th of July,” Feal said.
The deadline on the 29th is for those whose loved ones died more than two years ago, and for people whose 9/11 illnesses were certified more than two years ago. The VCF will remain open to others until 2090.
Registration ensures you will be able to file a claim at any point in the next 70 years and all it takes is a name, date of birth and social security number.
“Eighty to 85% of the 9/11 responder community is in the program. But only 7% of those who lived or worked or went to school in Lower Manhattan, [out] of 410,000 on 9/11 are in the program,” Feal said.
Attorney Michael Barasch, who represents those suffering from 9/11-related illnesses, says they are working to get the word out to as many people as possible before its too late.
“It's going to be heart breaking to hear from people who miss this deadline,” he said. “I represent first responders from every state in the country – firefighters, cops, construction workers, they poured into New York to help us, and they all went back home with the same toxins.”
In July 2019, the United States’ Congress funded the VCF to pay all eligible claims and extended the claim filing deadline to Oct. 1, 2090.