Three men in red hard hats, covered in dust, stand on the pile at Ground Zero
Photograph by Andrea Booher, FEMA

Illness and Advocacy After 9/11

More than two decades after 9/11, its ongoing physical and mental health impact still deeply affects tens of thousands of individuals across the country who were in lower Manhattan and the surrounding area following the attacks, as well as those from around the world who participated in the rescue, recovery, and relief efforts. 

A pair of women in the foreground, covered in dust, as additional unsettled dust fills the air and the street is covered in debris.
Collection 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of Phil Penman

Joanne Capestro (left) with a colleague at Broadway and Park Row after the collapse of the South Tower.

"Dust: Illness and Advocacy After 9/11" is a new installation exploring the impacts of the toxic dust that blanketed city streets and coated the insides of homes, businesses, and schools in the area. Every breath that survivors, first responders, and lower Manhattan residents took put them at risk for toxic exposure, underpinning the larger public health impact of the day that changed our world forever. 

Central to the 9/11 narrative at the core of our mission is what happened after the towers fell: the bravery and selflessness we saw; the diversity and sheer number of people who have died from or are currently living with illness and trauma because of that; and the advocacy efforts to secure congressional funding for immediate and long-term medical monitoring, research, and treatment programs.

As lived memory turns to history, the Memorial & Museum continues to expand the breadth of its storytelling and create new opportunities to recognize the sacrifice of all survivors, health care advocates, and later victims of the 9/11 catastrophe. 

Infographic that reads "More than 400,000 exposed"
  • Infographic that reads "130K enrolled in World Trade Center Health Program as of March 2024"
  • Infographic that reads "More than 37,000 first responders and survivors with WTC Health-certified cancers"
  • Infographic that reads "352 chemical agents identified in dust"
  • Infographic that reads "10 years: Time it took for breadth of patients to win federal support for 9/11-related illnesses."

Courtesy Centers for Disease Control, World Trade Center Health Program

WTC Health Program

The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program is a limited federal health program administered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is authorized through 2090. The Program provides no-cost medical monitoring and treatment for certified WTC-related health conditions to those directly affected by the 9/11 attacks in New York, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 

The WTC Health Program was established by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. In 2015, the Program was reauthorized until 2090. Tens of thousands are sick and, according to officials, nearly 7,000 people enrolled in the program have died (from all causes, not only World Trade Center-related conditions). But as of December 2022, the program was providing assistance and support to roughly 130,000 members across all 50 states. 

Learn more about the WTC Heath Program, including how to apply and what they cover. Additional resources can be found below

Additionally, "The Health Effects of 9/11: An Online Exhibition" was developed by the WTC Health Program in partnership with the David J. Sencer CDC Museum. The exhibition examines the ongoing health effects linked to 9/11 exposures and the emergence of WTC-related health conditions. It also explores the events and advocacy that established the WTC Health Program and research achievements that have led to improvements in medical treatment and knowledge. Explore this online exhibition.

  • Two workers get their boots washed by two other workers in yellow hazmat uniforms.
  • A tea set covered in heavy dust.
  • A pair of work boots with visible damage.
  • A microscopic view of toxic dust
  • A dark haired woman holds several pill bottles while standing against a wall with 9/11 newspaper clippings.
  • A mixed media poster made up of pill bottles and the text "THERE ARE NO WORDS THAT EXPRESS OUR SUFFERING"
  • Five people - three of whom hold framed photographs - stand in front of a wood paneled, mustard-color curtained wall. An American flag is visible on the left.
  • Four people raise their left hands while being sworn in before testifying. The wall behind them is cream-colored.
  • Four men in khaki pants and navy blue shirts stand with an empty wheelchair in front of the U.S. capital building.
  • Probationary FDNY officers in uniform along the Memorial. At the foreground, a back view of one probie saluting.

Row 1: (Left) Boot washing station near Ground Zero, Collection 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Photograph © Steve Spak. (Right) Photograph by Edward Keating, The New York Times, Redux. 

Row 2: (Left) Pair of Red Wings Gore-Text boots, with leather visibly dry and cracked. A layer of dust and dirt is also present. Collection 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of devotion from the Lyons family. (Right) Dust at Ground Zero as seen in a scanning electron microscope. Collection 9/11 Memorial & Museum, © by David Scharf 2002

Row 3: (Left) Lucelly Gil, a cleaning woman who worked at buildings near Ground Zero, poses with an array of the medications she takes to treat various 9/11-related health issues. Collection 9/11 Memorial & Museum, © Allan Tannenbaum. All rights reserved. (Right) Protest sign with empty pill bottles. Collection 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of Freddie Noboa, Photograph by Matt Flynn.

Row 4: (Left) Family of Candidus Henry, a deceased construction worker, with Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) following the hearing on H.R. 1237: "The Need to Reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund." Collection 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of FealGood Foundation and Faye Murman-Dorsey. (Right) Tom Mohnal (FBI), Michael O'Connell (FDNY), Luis Alvarez (NYPD), and Jon Stewart are sworn in before testifying as part of the second witness panel at the same hearing. Collection 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of FealGood Foundation and Faye Murman-Dorsey.

Row 5: (Left) Members of the FealGood Foundation, including, from left, John Feal, Keith Delmar (FDNY), Richard Palmer (DOC), and Kenny Specht (FDNY) in Washington, D.C. Collection 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of FealGood Foundation and Faye Murman-Dorsey. (Right) FDNY EMT class gathers on the Memorial plaza. 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Photograph by Jin S. Lee.

Our Anniversary Digital Learning Experience

A woman with shoulder-length blonde hair appears on a movie screen, speaking to the audience. A subtitle is visible underneath her, and the surrounding theater is darkened.
9/11 Memorial & Museum, Photograph by Ben Hider

Each September 11, our free 9/11 Anniversary Digital Learning Experience (formerly Anniversary in the Schools) welcomes students and teachers from around the globe for a special program that features a 30-minute film, available on demand, highlighting first-person accounts of the attacks and their aftermath. A live chat with Museum staff is available throughout the day. Past speakers from the 9/11 rescue and recovery community include Sonia Agron, Red Cross volunteer at Ground Zero after 9/11; Bridget Gormley, health advocate whose father, an FDNY firefighter, responded to the attacks and later died from 9/11-related cancer;  Dr. Kerry Kelly and Daniel Jost, FDNY Chief Medical Officer on 9/11 and for more than two decades after the attacks, and her husband, a New York City school teacher who was in the classroom with students the morning of the attacks; and Lila Nordstrom, health advocate, a student at Stuyvesant High School on 9/11.

Public Programs

Four men on stage against a bright blue backdrop with the 9/11 Memorial & Museum logo
9/11 Memorial & Museum, Photograph by Monika Graff

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s public program series explores a range of topics covering the ongoing impacts and resonance of the attacks, including the rescue and recovery efforts that led to thousands of 9/11-related deaths and illnesses. Explore sessions dedicated to Fresh Kills20 Years Later: Advocacy & Activism20 Years: Confronting Challenges; and Rescue & Recovery.

In Their Own Voices

A pair of respiratory masks on display
Collection 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of Brian Van Flandern

Our blog series "In Their Own Voices" features excerpts of interviews with members of the rescue and recovery community, underscoring the diversity of the agencies, individuals, roles, and long-term implications of the 9/11 story. Explore them here.

Community Member Visitation

We are pleased to offer complimentary Museum admission to the 9/11 community, including the family members of those killed on September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993; individuals eligible for the World Trade Center Health Program; the immediate family members of those who have died from 9/11-related illnesses and injuries; and any rescue and recovery workers who are part of our registry

Plan your visit.