by Mary Liz Flavin | news editor
February 10, 2022
As the dust settled, many responders, citizens and workers helped fix New York City on 9/11 by clearing and moving the rubble over a period of months. However, one cost they didn’t see was the many health problems from polluted air and contaminated work environments.
The film, 9/11 Unsettled Dust covered these issues and dove deep into individual stories as well as the larger underlying problem.
On Tuesday, February 8, the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures launched its 15th annual human rights film series with the film 9/11 Unsettled Dust. The film series consists of various films intended to spark discussion about difficult issues in today’s world.
In addition to the films, a guest speaker will be present to talk about the specific topics covered in the designated film.
9/11 Unsettled Dust was directed by Liz Katzman and examines the stories of those affected by toxic conditions and public health failures after 9/11. Many workers did not receive masks or hazmat suits while working at Ground Zero and the World Trade Center. For months, responders, as well as residents, have been affected by poor air quality and other variable conditions caused by the events of 9/11.
Jensan Bauman, a student at Duquesne, said the film tackles some important issues.
“I enjoyed the movie because it depicted information that we don’t normally talk about,” Bauman said.
The film also deals with the actions of former EPA Administrator Christine Whitman and many other government officials and their stance over the years on health and safety. Originally, Whitman said in 2007 that the air was safe and those working at ground zero should continue to do so.
Throughout the documentary, it was clear that as more and more stories were told of people suffering from newly developed respiratory problems and cancer, as well as an increase in deaths associated with these conditions, there was a bigger problem to solve.
Speaker Jay D. Aronson, founder and director of the Center for Human Rights Science at Carnegie Mellon University, has conducted research on the intersections between science, technology, law, media and human rights.
“Watching this, I couldn’t help but think of the victims and the health effects they had developed. One thing that struck me was that the main mission of the city leaders was for American capitalism to get going again, making money was one of the biggest issues,” Aronson said.
Aronson points out that one of the goals of city leaders was to make sure the economy was up and running again. However, by making the economy a priority, it also hurt people.
Years later, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was created to provide health oversight and assistance to first responders, volunteers, and survivors of the 9/11 attacks. It was named after James Zadroga, a New York City Police Department officer who died of a respiratory illness he contracted while performing rescue and recovery operations at the World Trade Center.
Mark Frisch, associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, wants students to be made aware of the issues that bring these films to light.
“A lot of these things happen behind our backs, it’s important for students to be aware of some of the issues. We can start to eliminate them if we really apply ourselves,” Frisch said.
Other films that will be screened throughout this month are The Shadow of Gold, Building the American Dream and Invisible Hands. Three films that shed light on issues such as the mining of diamonds and precious metals, a look at the lives of immigrants and the denunciation of child labour.