Washington, DC - Earlier this week the nation remembered those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Officially, 2,997 people were killed when 19 radical Islamic assassins hijacked four airliners and turned them into guided missiles aimed at vulnerable targets. Three of those planes found their targets – the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, VA. The fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania, when patriotic passengers put up a fight.

But, in fact, those attacks “were a death sentence for countless more victims in the aftermath of that tragic event,” notes Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC]. “More than 1,000 have already succumbed to illnesses caused by exposure to toxic debris. One report suggests that some 37,000 people have developed at least one medical condition as a result of 9/11. Another one notes that 20,874 individuals – including 16,000 first responders – are sick enough to be eligible for compensation.”

The terrorists took down the two main towers, each 110 stories tall, creating a dust storm of epic proportions. According to the Healthline Web site the “dust, which remained in the air for days, covered everything and everyone in the area. It held a mixture of toxins and irritants that included asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), benzene, dioxin, glass fibers, gypsum, cement particles, and heavy metals such as lead, among other substances.”

The diseases afflicting 9/11 survivors run the gamut from heart and lung disease to a variety of cancers and even Alzheimer’s disease, according to Weber.

The late Dr. Jim Melius was an expert on workplace medicine who chaired the Steering Committee for what would become the World Trade Center Health Program. In an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper last year, he said, “within the next five years we will be at the point where more people have died from World Trade Center-related illnesses than died from the immediate impact of the attacks. There are a lot of people who are very, very ill with lung disease who will see at least 10 years taken from their normal life span and we are already seeing many more premature deaths occurring, and among younger people, from the cancers.  There is going to be a new generation of widows and widowers.”

Says Weber, “December 7, 1941 is remembered as ‘a date that will live in infamy’ in memory of the more than 2,400 Americans killed in that cowardly attack on Pearl Harbor. It once was described as the day ‘a sleeping giant’ was awakened. September 11, 2001 is a day that is as infamous – if not more so. And, once again that “giant” was awakened. But, while we’ve had important successes in the war on terror over the past 17 years, there is more to be done.  We cannot become complacent and we must support those who recognize the dangers ahead.”