By Marshall Waren
The internet streaming service Hulu just released a series called “Looming Tower.” It had a profound effect on me. It’s a 10-episode series on how our government let the country down with petty internal politics that led up to the 9/11 disaster. This distresses me because my son died from renal cell cancer that was more than likely caused by the toxic substances that were released when the Twin Towers collapsed. He was working on Wall Street in downtown New York at the time of the event. From his office on the 42nd floor, he watched the second plane crash into the north tower. His building was inundated with toxic dust after the towers collapsed. He and everyone else who worked there were barred from the building for several weeks during the cleanup.
Two years after 9/11, Bob was diagnosed with the disease. He went to be with the Lord on March 2, 2006. In the interim, we went numerous places for treatment and advice. I will never forget a conversation with a specialist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. We had been asked to research our family medical history because renal cell cancer is very rare in young people, mostly striking older folks. Our research showed that no one on either side of the family ever had kidney cancer. The doctor thought that was remarkable. We told him about the toxic dust in his Wall Street building. The doctor wondered out loud to just me and Sandee that it must be what caused this cancer. An acquaintance of Bob’s who also worked near the Twin Towers and who was also a young man was diagnosed with the same disease. I thought it too much of a coincidence, as did the doctor in Bethesda. It was not until 2014 that our suspicion was confirmed. The U.S. government announced diseases that were unusually prevalent in first responders and people who survived that day. Renal cell cancer was high on the list.
Now back to the series “Looming Tower.” The series led me to watch a PBS “Frontline” documentary about John O’Neill, who spent years as a terrorism expert for the FBI. O’Neill knew about Osama Bin Laden long before 9/11 and strongly believed that al-Qaeda was planning something big in the US. He was stymied at every turn and eventually forced to retire from the FBI because of his zealous approach to Bin Laden. The PBS program was called “The Man Who Knew.” If the CIA and FBI had not been playing small-minded politics with their information, then 9-11 probably could have been avoided. The irony of this whole matter is that O’Neill took a job as head of security for the Twin Towers and was at the site on the day of the attack. He died in the North Tower trying to help people get out of the building.
My main question is: Who do I see about my son’s death?