NEW YORK - It has been 11 years since the September 11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center in New York City.
“One World Trade Center” is nearing its completion and is expected to open in 2014 as one of the tallest towers in the US.
The National September 11 Memorial Site has been visited by about four million people from all over the world since its opening last fall.
Considered the largest man made waterfalls in North America, the memorial site’s twin reflecting pool -- about the size of an acre each -- sits in the footprints where the twin towers once stood.
The bronze plates that surround the two square waterfalls bear the names of the nearly 3000 people killed, including 21 Filipinos.
Among the 21 Filipino names etched on these plates is Rameses Bautista’s 46 year old wife, Marilyn.
Marilyn and her sister Rufina Cocquia were working on the 98th floor of the North Tower in the morning of September 11, 2001.
But Cocquia decided to leave the building to fulfill her church duties.
She said she may have escaped death, but she lost a loved one when the North Tower collapsed.
“For me it’s not really my time… although, of course, it hurts. My sister was there, but for me I believe that God has a plan for each and every one,” she said.
The 9/11 Memorial Site is a powerful reminder of the largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on US soil, and the greatest single loss of rescue personnel in American history, according to its website.
But for non-emergency workers who helped clean up Ground Zero’s aftermath, Filipino-American contractor Ping Panlilio said the commemoration is tainted with unresolved health concerns of those who inhaled the toxic 9/11 dust.
People like him, he said, need additional health care coverage.
“It’s sad na we think about all the dead people and pray for them but it’s even sadder for us who helped there, mga sabi sa amin, mga heroes but nobody is helping us, we’re getting sicker and sicker,” Panlilio said.
At least 20,000 ground zero workers are being treated and 40,000 are being monitored by the world trade center health program across the nation.
More than 1,000 emergency workers have died from respiratory ailments including Filipino NYPD officer Cesar Borja who died of lung disease.
The family believes it was caused by Borja’s exposure to the toxic 9/11 dust he inhaled while working in the vicinity of ground zero.
“If you feel something wrong with you, go to your doctor and ask around, because help is available, But if you don’t ask for that help, nobody is going to give it to you,” Panlilio added.
Panlilio’s wish may soon be granted. The World Trade Center Health Program said first responders, volunteers, and survivors of the attacks and residents near the site who meet specific qualifications may be eligible for health coverage.
A new rule is expected to be published Wednesday in the Federal Register, and will take effect 30 days after its publication.