The Lessons of 9/11

Listen 1:00:48

The passing of 20 years since the 9/11 terror attacks has meant that some of the wounds cut by that day have closed — others have not. Thousands of families lost loved ones in the attacks, and their grief became part of a national tragedy. Many more have since gotten sick or even died from illnesses related to exposure to dust and debris. The attacks changed how we think about the long-lasting impact of environmental hazards, what we know about grief and trauma, and how we build. On this episode, we explore some of the lasting effects of the 9/11 attacks, and what we’ve learned from them.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • When we think of who suffered the greatest health effects of 9/11, most of us think of first responders — the brave police officers, firemen, and volunteers who risked their lives rushing into Ground Zero. In the years since, many of those first responders have become sick and died from illnesses related to the toxic dust and debris. Stories of their heroism and sacrifice helped fuel the creation of a victims’ compensation fund to help with medical costs. But as it turns out, first responders weren’t the only ones affected — scores of others in Lower Manhattan have also suffered consequences, ranging from cancer to autoimmune diseases. Alan Yu reports on their fight for recognition — and access to government help.
  • Trauma can change our bodies and minds, and those changes can even be passed on to the next generation. Columbia University neuroscientist Bianca Jones Marlin is trying to figure out what is passed on, and how.
  • Journalist Tim Lambert’s professional life became intertwined with the story of Flight 93, the hijacked plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers and crew attempted to take back control. His family owned part of the land where Flight 93 crashed before it became a national memorial. He joins us to discuss his connection to the land and to the family members of Flight 93, and how they have grieved over the years. Lambert and NPR reporter Scott Detrow have produced an audio documentary for the 20th anniversary called Sacred Ground.

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