Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ground Zero is Katrina Super Dome for Toxic Air Victims

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Senator Hillary Clinton got it right when they said city, state and feds failed to adequately manage protection of workers and others at Ground Zero, Lower Manhattan and other areas exposed to the toxic dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center Twin Towers. This sounds disconcertingly like the complaints from the victims of Katrina at the New Orleans Super Dome and Convention Center. We think the lesson from these two events is that, to the maximum extent possible, you should depend on yourself for protection instead of completely relying on government agencies.

We also agree with Hillary and Rudy that all affected should be taken care of. Forget the blame game. We cringed when we watched workers without respirators clearing the debris at the terrorist attack site. But we also understand how hard, if not impossible, it is to do strenuous work in warm weather in dusty conditions with a respirator. And people were not thinking about themselves in the emergency situation. They just wanted to get that site cleaned.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration enforced respirators at the Pentagon but not at Ground Zero. And there was probably significant pressure to get Wall Street and Lower Manhattan operating normally again. New York City is the economic capital of the world. So the city, the fed, the workers, residents and businesses were in a hurry to get back to normal. We are human. We make mistakes. And government is not a supreme being. As Rudy said, "Everybody bears responsibility for it."

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