9/11 Survivor Attorneys

Doreen and Paul

By Troy Rosasco

Doreen was uneasy about going back to her office at One Liberty Plaza in Downtown Manhattan after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Her office, across from where One World Trade Center once stood, was reopened a few months after 9/11. Ground Zero was still smoldering and she had lingering thoughts about how safe it was to be that close to the burning wreckage. She had no idea that she would be another victim of 9/11, so many years after that horrific day.

Her husband Paul recalls Doreen’s routine once she returned home from work in the months following the attacks. “She would come home and right away, she would take off her clothes and jump in the shower and throw her clothes in the washing machine because she smelled like smoke, like fire,” he said.

In 2006, Doreen found a lump in her breast. After seeing an oncologist and undergoing a biopsy, Doreen was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. She was only 39 years old. She had a double mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy for approximately five months. She had testing done to determine if the cancer was genetic – it was not.

Doreen was checked frequently to monitor the cancer and was told that it had shrunk. In 2011 she experienced a sharp pain in her back. In just six months since her last PET Scan, the cancer had returned and spread to her bones, kidneys, liver, and brain.  In the last six months of her life, Doreen went through several bouts of treatment and medication trials. She died on June 2012 at 45 years old.

Paul was now a widower caring for three children, one with special needs. On top of dealing with the immense loss of his beloved wife, he was now the sole provider for his family and had their future to think about. It wasn’t until years later that he became aware of help for not only the 9/11 first responders but for all 9/11 victims and their families – the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

Doreen’s friend and coworker had also been diagnosed with breast cancer. Years after Doreen died, she reached out to Paul and told him about the 9/11 VCF. “I had heard about the fund; I just never knew that it was for somebody that worked down there. I thought it was for people who got killed that day or for first responders,” Paul said.

Thousands of people, like Doreen, were exposed to the toxic fumes that were emitted from Ground Zero for months. Downtown Manhattan workers, residents, students, and volunteers who were helping with the cleanup effort were breathing in dust and harmful fumes from the smoldering debris. In the years following the attacks, thousands of people who were exposed have been diagnosed with serious illnesses, including cancer, and have suffered substantial long-term debilitating health consequences.

The U.S. government created two programs to assist victims and survivors of 9/11: the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The WTC Health Program provides free medical screenings, lifetime healthcare, medical monitoring, cancer care, and prescription coverage. The 9/11 VCF provides a monetary award to those who suffer from digestive or respiratory conditions as well as over 70 different types of cancers that have been conclusively linked to the exposure to environmental fallout on 9/11 or at any time during the many months after the attacks.

In April of 2018, Paul reached out to Hansen & Rosasco to find out if he was eligible to file a claim with the 9/11 VCF. He first spoke with partner Dan Hansen who listened to his story and told him he had a strong case and could file a claim on his wife’s behalf.  His experience working with the firm has been positive, starting with that first meeting with Dan to working with Sidrah Syed, the firm’s associate attorney.

“If I didn’t have the law firm helping me and Sidrah helping me, I probably would have abandoned ship a long time ago,” said Paul. “Having them in my corner made all the difference in the world.”

A person does not legally have to have a 9/11 attorney to file a claim with the 9/11 VCF. They can choose to connect with the VCF on their own. However, victims who faced a cancer diagnosis or other serious medical problems related to the 9/11 attacks should carefully consider the value of retaining an experienced attorney who understands the VCF claim process. The staff at Hansen & Rosasco can help clients fill out all the legal paperwork correctly, collect the documentation to prove presence at Ground Zero, and streamline the filing process.

Although Doreen was concerned about returning to work so soon after the 9/11 attacks, she was told that it was safe. She had no idea she would be a 9/11 victim. Doreen’s death created an incredible impact emotionally on her family. Her children have experienced several major milestones without their mom present. Allowing Hansen & Rosasco to facilitate the claim process has helped Paul focus on his family and work through the grief of losing a loved one. The VCF award will help him ensure that his family’s future is secure. That alone creates some peace of mind.

Posted under: 9/11 Cancers

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