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September 11, 2001 and Beyond: The Impact of the Terror Attacks on People With Disabilities
On September 11, 2001, hijackers took over four airliners and used them to murder thousands of innocent people in Pennsylvania, New York City, and Washington DC.
The attack has shown the worst in people.
It has also shown the best in people.
The disability community responded immediately with messages of unity and support for the friends and families who lost loved ones.
Since the attack, attention has been drawn to the safety of people around the world, and in particular to those of us who have disabilities, when it comes to evacuation plans and building design.
What follows is the Inclusion Daily Express coverage of the events of September 11 and the aftermath, as related to people with disabilities. Just click on the links below to go to the stories or announcements.
That's what one Inclusion Daily Express reader, who was within three blocks of the World Trade Center when it collapsed Tuesday morning, wrote to me. (That reader assured me that he is safe.)
He could have been describing the entire nation.
The terrorist attack on the United States, executed on U.S. soil, was directed toward our very heart and soul.
This was also an attack on people everywhere who cannot help but wonder about their own security now that the world's greatest financial and military giant was hit so hard.
It is, without a doubt, the single largest tragedy visited against the United States in its 225 year history. Innocent children along with men and women of all ages -- none of whom appeared to have even a remote grudge against their murderers -- were used in ways that words simply cannot describe.
My guess is that many who live in other parts of the world -- in places such as Rwanda, Bosnia, Ireland, Serbia, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, just to name a few that have had to deal with the daily threat of terrorism -- while feeling our pain, could perhaps be saying it's time for the sleeping giant to "Wake up and smell the coffee."
One of many questions being asked here and around the world is "Why?" How could human beings do such horrible things to other people, especially innocent people?
For many of us, it's a familiar question and the kind with no good answers.
Each day when I do my "hunting and gathering" for disability-related news and information, I find new stories of human beings doing terrible things to other human beings, most of whom are innocent, many of whom cannot defend themselves, many of whom are Americans. I only share a fraction of those with readers.
We know that during the 25 year period from 1965 to 1990, an estimated 1,103,000 Americans -- an average of 44,120 per year -- are documented to have died while locked up inside state- and county-operated mental institutions. This is nearly twice as many as the estimated 650,563 Americans who died in battle while fighting for freedom during the period from the Revolutionary War through the Persian Gulf War.
Many people believe the numbers of documented deaths in those facilities are much lower than the actual numbers because records were often not kept or were destroyed.
I have not found any estimates of the numbers of people with disabilities who have died in community-based settings.
We have no real way of knowing how many of those in either kind of setting died through abuse or neglect at the hands of those who were responsible for ensuring their safety and health. My guess is that if we knew the actual numbers, we as a nation would also be in "absolute shock".
If we learn the answers to the questions behind Tuesday's attacks, I hope we can apply them to the individual assaults that happen daily within our own borders.
In the meantime, our best defense any hatred is to make sure that truth, hope and love prevail.
Each of us experienced Tuesday's tragedies in a different way.
There are two pictures I probably will not ever be able to erase from my mind.
The first is a scene described by a man who made it down dozens of flights of stairs to escape from the first World Trade Center tower before it collapsed. In a television interview he said many people -- some in wheelchairs -- were left stranded on their floors in the building because they could not use the stairs after the elevators froze up.
The second is a picture I saw on television, that of two apparently seasoned fire fighters, men who seemed to both be in their 40s, holding each other as they trembled outside the rubble that had at one time been the largest buildings in the world.
What is your story? What pictures or sounds will you likely
remember? You can share them with other readers on the Inclusion Daily Express
message board. (Remember, however, that the discussion board is available to
the general public. So, if you do post a new message or reply to a current
posting, your information will no longer be private):
NCIL Issues Message of
"NCIL asks the whole disability community to join us in solidarity with the rest of America in doing all we can to work together to protect and defend ALL people from that which would threaten our safety and our freedom," Marcie Roth, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy wrote in a statement Wednesday.
"Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who lost their lives yesterday, to the rescuers who are putting their lives in extreme danger at this very moment to assist the people who are still alive in the collapsed buildings and to those who will now experience disability as a result of their injuries."
"We also want to especially acknowledge the loss of those individuals with disabilities working in or visiting the World Trade Center and Pentagon who were unable to escape and for whom assistance never came."
"This terrible act of terrorism must be countered by solidarity among all freedom-loving people. Let's make sure that we are visible in our solidarity with our larger communities and amongst our own community of freedom fighters."
A message from disability rights advocates Justin and Yoshiko
A message from Justice For All, AAPD and others:
Coworkers Help Woman Escape Burning
The two employees from Network Plus, a Boston-based telecommunications firm located on the 81st floor of the first World Trade Center tower, narrowly escaped the building's collapse.
When the first airplane crashed just four levels above their office, the two joined hundreds of others heading down the smoky staircase.
At the 68th level, they came upon a woman who could not make it down the stairs. Benfante and Cerqueira reportedly helped the unnamed woman out of her wheelchair and into an "evac chair" designed specifically for carrying people with disabilities.
For the next hour, the two men carried her the rest of the way to ground level.
Here is the USA Today story:
The 21-year-old is reportedly recovering well after a five hour operation Wednesday morning.
But after a two-year long battle with medical professionals, the young man who had congestive heart failure nearly became a victim of the recent terrorist attacks on the opposite side of the country.
Cortez, who is deaf and has a developmental disability, was put on a heart transplant list in July of this year, only after friends threatened to sue the University of Washington Medical Center for discriminating against him because of his disabilities. The doctors had originally rejected Cortez because they believed he would not be able to understand and follow instructions to take care of himself after the surgery. His supporters, including his former high school teacher Ted Karanson, successfully argued that Cortez certainly was capable of learning, and that he had any support he needed in the form of family and friends.
Early Wednesday morning, a heart was saved from a young crash victim in Anchorage, Alaska. But that was 2,300 miles away and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had stopped all air traffic just a few hours earlier because the disasters in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC.
A heart can only be useful for eight hours, so in a race against time, a private plane was chartered to fly the heart to Seattle and was given special clearance by the FAA.
FBI Special Agent Jim Powers later told the Associated Press that Royal Canadian Air Force fighters escorted the flight through Canadian air space, then turned the plane over to U.S. Navy fighters jets.
But, the message that the charter flight had special FAA clearance did not get to a fighter pilot, who forced the plane to land about 80 miles north of its destination in Bellingham.
The heart was transported the rest of the way by helicopter. When it reached the medical team, six hours had passed.
"We had an excellent heart to transplant," said Dr. Gabriel Aldea, UW chief of adult cardiac surgery, who performed the operation. "The surgery went very, very well."
Cortez is expected to recover in the hospital for the next week to 10 days.
"Oh, I'll be a new man," Cortez told Karanson on the trip to the hospital.
For past stories on Brian Cortez, his supporters and their
struggle to get him a new heart, check out this Inclusion Daily Express web
Terrorist Attack Claims Life Of Long
Fraser was a passenger on United Airlines flight 93 which took off from Newark for San Francisco Tuesday morning. The plane was hijacked by terrorists over Ohio and crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
According to a statement from the council, Fraser was elected vice chair in July of this year.
She was on her way to a grant writing seminar to boost her skills for her new job as executive director of Progressive Center for Independent Living (PCIL), the independent living center for Mercer and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey.
More details are available from the New Jersey Developmental
Disabilities Council website:
National Council on Disability
Statement on Terrorist Attacks
"We are saddened by the personal loss of loved ones and by the universal loss of innocence marked by the horrific acts committed. Comfort comes from knowing good always triumphs over evil, and that the spirit of freedom endures."
The National Council on Disability (NCD) is an independent federal agency making recommendations to the President and Congress on disability policy.
Dog Helped Lead Man Out Of Tower To
According to various wire reports, the blind computer worker from Columbia was on the 70th floor when a hijacked airliner slammed into the building.
Rivera told a Columbia television station that he took the leash off the dog so it could escape. The dog left Rivera, but soon returned and stayed by his side.
Rivera's supervisor showed up and led him to an emergency exit. The three spent the next hour walking down a narrow emergency staircase as crowds of others ran down the stairs to escape the building's collapse.
September 22, 2001
Survivor Has Coworkers, Evac Chair To
Thank For His Life
When terrorists bombed his building in 1993, it took six hours for coworkers to carry him and his 150-pound electric wheelchair down 69 flights of stairs to safety.
When hijackers slammed an airliner into the same tower on September 11, Abruzzo's coworkers were prepared. They transferred him to a special evacuation chair that resembles a kind of sled. Then they carried Abruzzo down the smoky staircase and out to safety, in a little over an hour.
They were all outside the tower just 10 minutes before it collapsed.
Saturday's Newsday On Line ran this story on Abruzzo and his
Marsha Katz from Montana's ADAPT sent a message and pointed to a
resource that could help people with disabilities and their allies to be better
prepared for disasters both large and small. That message can be accessed by
going to this Inclusion Daily Express webpage:
"I'm helping the community and being a part of the community here in Lincoln, helping the blood bank and helping people in other communities," says Harden.
As you can imagine, Harden, who has cerebral palsy, and her fellow volunteers have been especially busy since the terrorists attacks on September 11.
The Lincoln Journal Star ran this brief story about Harden and her
Education Department To Give Funds
For New Yorkers Following Attacks
Education Secretary Rod Paige announced a $1.7 million grant to New York school districts whose students and teachers have suffered directly as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center towers.
An additional $5 million will go in the form of immediate assistance to help people experiencing mental and physical injuries from the events. Of that $5 million, $4.3 million will go to the New York Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities and $700,000 will go to the New York Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped.
The funds are to be used for mental health services, job retraining and placement, and restoring the vocational rehabilitation technology systems that were damaged in the attacks.
According to the Associated Press, Paige has also announced support for schools near New York City, including those in Connecticut, New Jersey, and schools near the Pentagon crash site in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland.
"Attacks Affect Disabled
"The best prepared among us could not prepare for a disaster of this magnitude. The disability community was hit very hard by the hijackings. We lost people, and, in the aftermath, we may lose some more."
Volkman's column appeared in Sunday's Times Union, and can be
accessed at this web page:
Evacuation Plans For People With
Disabilities Are Lacking
Many people who use wheelchairs, for example, have lamented that most disaster evacuation plans simply call for them to stay in one room and wait for emergency personnel. Those who did wait in the WTC towers perished along with their would-be rescuers.
It is not known how common or effective evacuation plans are when
it comes to people with disabilities, according to an article from the
Associated Press via Yahoo! News:
Travelers With Disabilities More
Inconvenienced Than Ever
According to BusinessWeek columnist John M. Williams, several conversations have led him to believe that things have only gotten worse over the last three weeks.
For example, two passengers were told they could not take their canes on board their flights because they could be used as a weapon. They were also questioned about their guide dogs, because security officers believed they could be used as attack dogs. A deaf man of Middle Eastern descent missed his flight after being detained for questioning because security personnel mistook the sign language he and a friend were using might be some sort of terrorists code. A passenger
And while lengthy safety precautions may be necessary, this is a good time for the airline industry and security personnel to redouble their training efforts related to flyers who have disabilities.
Williams' column appeared in Wednesday's BusinessWeek
Program Recognized For Helping
New York City Police
At the request of the New York City Police Department, Allegany Arc assembled 25,000 DNA testing kits within 48 hours following the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Boxes, cotton swabs, identity labels and integrity seals were needed for the testing kits that are used to help identify victims of the attack, according to a brief item from the Buffalo News.
Escape Plans Are A
"Disabled Americans must teach others how to save us, and teach ourselves," wrote McKee in the Detroit Free Press. "Many of us have no idea that it's our responsibility to case the building to ensure our safety."
"How many of us ask for the disabled escape plan at our jobs?"
"In multistory buildings, disabled individuals truly put their lives in danger if there isn't a well-developed escape plan."
McKee hopes that the tragic attacks last month will bring more attention to the need for practical evacuation plans, and will cause people with disabilities to take more responsibility for being sure the buildings where they work and visit have a way out in case of an emergency.
Here is McKee's excellent article:
City To Help Develop Emergency Escape
Over the next year, the Indianapolis Fire Department and Easter Seals will work together to create a set of guidelines for evacuating people with disabilities from high-rise buildings.
Easter Seals wants to develop national standards for emergency rescues of employees who work in taller buildings. It chose Indianapolis because its Fire Department is already implementing many earlier recommendations.
"This is really huge," said Sara Brewster, a vice president with Easter Seals.
Some recommendations are listed in this article from the
Children Send Gift Of Warmth For
So the Foundation for Dream's Dream Oaks Camp helped them organize a mitten and glove drive.
The Associated Press reported on December 24 that the group had collected more than 600 pairs of gloves and hand-knitted mittens, donated by Bradenton residents. The gloves and mittens are to be delivered to the New York City Fire Department for them to distribute.
"I think it's important because of all the kids who lost their moms and dads in the two towers," said Gabrielle Lozano, 12, who is blind and has a brain tumor.
"I think it's nice to give them a little Christmas."
"People With Disabilities, You Cannot
Get Into The Capitol"
Unfortunately, those same measures are keeping people with disabilities out of the Capitol, too.
Among other things, Nell Hahn, attorney for Louisiana's Advocacy Center, said that the entrance to the Capitol located near handicapped parking can only be accessed by people with electronic swipe cards. Hahn claims this violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, because it leaves people using wheelchairs with no accessible way into the building.
Hahn said the Capitol itself is on a hill and a steep slope makes it hard to get from designated parking areas to front entrances. She added that even the automatic doors in the front of the building were not working properly on a recent visit.
"This situation here cannot be allowed to stand," said Hahn. "It's got to be fixed. Basically, it's saying 'People with disabilities, you can't get into the Capitol.'"
More details are available from Monday's Advocate Online:
Hate Crimes Bill Removed From
The current 1968 federal hate crimes law prohibits attacks based on race, religion or national origin. The measure that was halted on Tuesday would have added crimes motivated by sex, sexual orientation or disability. It also would have allowed federal prosecutors to handle hate-crime cases if local authorities refused to press charges.
The bill's supporters might have had enough votes to pass the legislation, but they did not have the 60 votes needed to stop Republican debate on the bill so it could be voted on. Six Republicans joined the majority of Democrats for a 54-43 vote, which was six votes fewer than required.
Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said that the measure would not have passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives anyway, primarily because the bill would have expanded federal authority over local law enforcement.
Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, said the main barrier to passing the bill is the House Republican leadership which will not accept protection of sexual orientation as part of the final bill.
"There is no doubt that we will have another vote on this bill," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
Republicans said the Senate should be focusing on the hate-crime of terrorism against the United States.
"There's where our focus should be," said Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, who cited the more than 3,000 people killed on September 11. "We should be taking up the defense authorization bill."
Mr. Kennedy countered that Senate Republicans had made it clear that they will not act to fight terrorism at home.
"Each year thousands of Americans are attacked out of hatred for their religion, the color of their skin or their sexual orientation," said Kennedy. "These senseless acts of violence are also terrorist acts, and we must do all we can do to end them."
Related story from USA Today:
My daughter is a fire hazard.
When I called the National Film Theatre to book tickets for both of us, I was told there was no seat for her because of the fire risk she posed. It wasn't because she's only 10 - it was a children's film, after all. And it wasn't because, like Krook in Bleak House, she may at any moment spontaneously combust.
It was simply because she uses a wheelchair.
It's not only in leisure that health and safety is used as an excuse to exclude. A TUC briefing last December warned that "wheelchair users are often refused jobs because they would not be able to escape buildings during a fire or 'may get in the way' of colleagues trying to escape".
As the Disability Discrimination Act has been extended, making it more and more difficult not to include people with disabilities, health and safety has become the last resort of the exclusion scoundrel.
"When A Disaster Strikes, We
Are All In The Same Boat" by Betsy MacMichael
People with and without disabilities were not ready for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Many Americans are accustomed to feeling in control of their lives. People with developmental disabilities, however, are used to not being in control. Now, we all have to live with an uneasy sense of disempowerment. We live with a certainty that our safety is not entirely in our own hands, regardless of our stores of duct tape.
Disasters equalize peoples vulnerabilities, whether cafeteria workers or investment bankers. Disasters can bring out the best in everyone; there are countless ways that any person can help a fellow human during a nightmare. We all can comfort another and share the experience of pain, sorrow and vulnerability. With or without disabilities, we all pick up the pieces in the aftermath as best we can.
TSA: New Security Measures For Airline
Passengers With Disabilities
The new guidelines, announced Tuesday, were developed by the agency with help from disability groups, and are to be followed by all TSA screeners across the country. This should make the security screening process quicker, more predictable, and more respectful, TSA officials said.
"TSA's goal is to ensure that every passenger with a disability knows what to expect at every airport, every time, everywhere," said Sandra Cammaroto, the first manager of the TSA Screening of Persons with Disabilities Program.
Under the new guidelines, screeners will talk to blind passengers, help them to empty their pockets of metal, and make sure they gather their belongings at the end of the X-ray machine. Screeners will no longer remove harnesses from service animals and guide dogs, but will inspect them by hand.
Passengers using wheelchairs who can't walk through the metal detectors will be offered a private area where a screener can search them by hand.
Tips for travelers with disabilities or medical concerns are available at the TSA's Web site.
"TSA Smoothes the Way for 'Persons with Disabilities'" (TSA