Lila Nordstrom testifies at hearing for 9/11 victims: June 11, 2019

Nordstrom was a student at Stuyvesant High School in New York City when the World Trade Center was attacked.
11:07 | 08/29/19

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Transcript for Lila Nordstrom testifies at hearing for 9/11 victims: June 11, 2019
My name is Eileen Nordstrom and on September 11 I was a seventeen year old student at Stuyvesant school which is a public schools that these three blocks from the World Trade Center. On the morning of 9/11 and I was in class with windows facing south and my classmates and I watched as planes hit the Twin Towers. We watched dozens of people jumping to their deaths you watched thousands of evacuees stream out of the area. And then the first tower fell and it dust cloud fresh start building and we couldn't see anything. I'm I was one of the first people out of Stuyvesant when we finally got evacuation orders. And the moment I stepped outside the second tower collapsed and everybody took off in Iran. I walk ten miles that day I couldn't reach my parents didn't and of people going home ended up walking all the way to queens. I'm after an attack at the attacks we were sent to a school in Brooklyn temporarily and the Stuyvesant building. Was used as in Morgan command center for the cleanup effort at ground zero because of its proximity. I am unfortunately after EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman told the residents of downtown New Yorkers that the air was safe to breathe. Government officials made the decision to return us to our school building. And we went back on October 9 which is less than a month after the attacks. Ground zero was still on fire and would be for another four months the smell of smoke was suffocating every day and despite assurances from officials. Very little got done to clean the school for students no Hazmat team got called in the filters and our ventilation system were not replaced until January. He air vents which were filled with the World Trade Center dust were not cleaned into the following summer. And he auditoriums contaminated upholstery was not actually replaced Foley told when he fourteen which you can see on the image about. Com the school was also continually re contaminated by trucks that were carting toxic debris from the World Trade Center site. Past our school and dumping it into barges that were parked next to their air intake system. Testing of the air outside of our school. Showed that on many days it was actually as bad as the air act ground zero itself and you can see where the barge is located at pictures taken from the doors of our school. In total more than 191000 public school students returned to school downtown during the cleanup as did thousands of teachers and school staff. And tens of thousands of students and professors from Borough of Manhattan community college and peace university in and what you. Downtown residents and office workers were actively encouraged to return even those that have small children at home. I'm and many of them got left to clean up dangerously contaminated spaces without much guidance. The federal federal dollars even got spanked by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. to encourage new residents to move into the area because. Unsurprisingly they began to face really high vacancy rates. Through all of this the EPA knew that there was not safe down there but they did not tell us. Not ash has now linked more than 68 cancers of the World Trade Center toxins. And I haven't even had my twentieth high school reunion yet but I already have. I former classmates with Luke Bowman's that I just know personally my friend Michelle is in remission from pirate cancer. Other classmates of mine have been diagnosed with a rare bone cancers testicular cancer is melanoma was. There's even a male breast cancer survivor among us as doctor Moline was talking about earlier. Classmates are also starting to die now just a couple of months ago. Kathy Choi who graduated just a year after me passed away at each 33 of the 9/11 linked gastric cancer. Her ECF board has not compete jet when it is paid to her husband it will be cut by fifty or 70%. And that's just my school. IB and TC students are sick as her students from peace and as are many younger children from the area. And beyond cancer planning of us are. 9/11 related conditions myself included. I'm personally certified with asthma wicker with chronic chronic sinusitis and with PT SD. City serious illnesses that are emerging now are just the tip of the iceberg. If the BCS is allowed to close a lot of my classmates will not end up their stake in time to make a claimant op. And women have special reason to be concerned because most of the research that's been done on nine elevenths health impacts I'm has been done on the responder population which is largely male. That means that a lot of women's health issues will not actually be linked to the attacks in time to ever be can sensible through the BC act. Youngest 9/11 survivors now we live all of a Venetian and we have. You know seventy or eighty years to live with these exposures in the case of the youngest exposed. Cancer does not respect arbitrary funding deadlines and if BB CS is allowed to reduce hasn't expired. This resource that was meant to ease our suffering is going to become just another symbol. Of how we were sacrificed. By a government that thought a quick return to normalcy after a tragic event was more important than health and safety of the children who lived through it. In 20112015. The government did the right thing and enacted and then re authorize does it does it drug act. And congress you do directing warmer time and fully fund an extended BC after. My friends who get sick in 20/20 seven deserve the same healthy would've received if they gotten sick in 2017. And so do I. Q. The terrorists who carried out the attacks against the United States and nine elevenths there the ultimate responsibility for all the harms caused by the attacks. You know the federal government's responsibility and heightening the risk to responders and members of the community in the days after the attacks. Particular the EPA at that time gave false assurances that the air around ground zero was well it's safe to breathe. Assurances which there then EPA administrator has since apologized. And acknowledged were wrong. As a matter of moral responsibility. Do you agree that congress has grip is as of the American people should help to give some measure of compensation to victims. The harms they have separated that were exacerbated by the government's own actions at the time. I am I think the absolutely should I mean I'm sitting before you as someone who has. Present on 9/11 that I was not caught in the dust cloud there is no reason that my respiratory health or my gastrointestinal health. Or my you know my dad. My guess that's off her figure out that there's no reason that that should have been impacted by the events of 9/11. I only have these conditions because I was sent back and I was only sent back because the federal government assured New Yorkers that the air downtown was safe to breathe. I was a child at the time I was in no position to make that decision for myself. I was not only you know following. The sort of wishes of much of the adults in my life but also with the wishes of the government which at every level seemed to assure us that we were gonna be fine in an environment where we were surrounded by dusty debris and fires would burn for another four months. Your stories very poignant to me you're you're describing what happened to school children. Who were sent back to the neighborhood when it was no longer safe in argued describe how many of your classmates are coming down with. Asthma and cancer and fatal diseases in your party lost some of them in your I think you described being in your 23 unions are greater. Not even Tony ignited entity OK but how. How does. America were out of the city keep track of people in your situation who reached out to you. I assume that the fire departments and the police departments have a way of communicating with people but who's keeping track of people in your situation. That's. An incredibly challenging and one of the reasons that is fine closing when it does will really be harmful for us is that a lot of people in my situation. Are not aware that they qualify for these services. A lot of the coverage of this and these services gets directed at responders and because about a lot of survivors especially those outside of the city and we live nationally dispersed. I live in California I. I I do not live in New York City I haven't for twelve years com. I a lot of us don't have you know local advocates on this issue there's no local press coverage of this issue. And so. There's a large Cuban people that many are ready be sick who just aren't aware that these services are available to them who aren't familiar with how to apply to them. We have really had to rely on word of mouth pretty extensively. And considering that a lot of the students who are present in lower Manhattan during the clean up. We're not actually residents of the neighborhood. Stuyvesant has 3000 students and most of them do not live in lower Manhattan there is a similarly large high school who also doesn't serve a resident population a couple blocks away. There are a lot of specialized schools and that area a lot of them do because a lot of people's parents didn't live in the area. I'm they weren't even informed about these risks they were informed about these services and so we're still doing the work of reaching out and now. Ms. Nordstrom. I think your testimonies. Strictly compelling continue to describe him more about what notices you were given. Even as young students or your parents or get under your teachers were given it about. The status the health. In your school. On the once we Wear our heat back at the school we received a number of sort of cryptic warnings we started to get. Notes home that said don't drink out of the water fountain and Hubert suddenly not allowed to leave the building for lunch. Which was a privilege that we had enjoyed before that. On the need for some reason it was supposed to be okay that we walk to and from the subway in that same air but apparently eating lunch was not going to be safe. And as soon as we were back. A sort of contentious. Discussion broke out about whether we should be there not. But you know we were not that we didn't really have any agency that discussion that was obviously discussion that was happening between government officials parents. I'm and teachers at the school. And so we sort of weakness a lot of information come out late in the game after the parents administration started to investigate things. That's yet apparent administration is who discovered that air quality at the barge was as bad as there ground zero on many days it was apparent association that discovered. That he I'm carpeting and upholstery in our cafeteria I mean in our auditorium was contaminated. I'm and it was with the parents' association or push the board of education to finally replace the filters. In our generation system that was something that was supposed to be damn foreign backpack and knock it done. All of that took months to unfold so by the end of the year it was pretty clear that we should have never been there but we never really. Received that in for meeting at a point where we could've acted on it certainly. If the you know if if they did sort of government officials charger back hair had been honest about situation. I think it would have been appropriate to remove us from the premise says. But no decision like that ever got made instead it's these small steps where there are gonna hosed down the debris and then you know they were hurt and it. Replacement carpeting in the theater but not the seats in small steps like back got meat but. Nothing substantial. Got made and so we just kind of at the end of the year looked back and realized got Christine being.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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