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Ground Zero Suit Plaintiff On Settlement Offer

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

More than eight years after the attacks of 9/11, a settlement has been reached in the cases of rescue and cleanup workers who rushed to ground zero. Thousands sued the city of New York for failing to protect them from toxic contaminants that have since caused a range of health problems from asthma to cancer. Now they've been offered a settlement of $657.5 million. For it to move forward, 95 percent of the plaintiffs must agree to that settlement. And one of those plaintiffs is Glen Klein. He was a police officer with the NYPD's emergency services unit, and he spent 800 hours at ground zero. Welcome to the program, sir.

Mr. GLEN KLEIN (Former Police Officer, NYPD Emergency Services Unit): Thank you.

NORRIS: I understand that you yourself have suffered a number of health issues since 9/11. What kind of problems have you faced?

Mr. KLEIN: It all started off with bacteria called H. pylori, which I got in my intestinal system. And from there it went to GERD and reflux disease and then I found precancerous polyps in my colon. And from there it radiated to breathing abnormalities. They found nodules on one lung, scarring on the other lung. And they found that I have asthma and restrictive airway disease also. High blood pressure - there's a whole list of things.

NORRIS: Sir, what was your initial reaction when you heard the news about this settlement?

Mr. KLEIN: Oh, I did get excited right away, just learning bits and pieces about it right now. And as I learn more and more about it, I'm becoming less and less happy about it.

NORRIS: So, you're not sure you're going to support it?

Mr. KLEIN: Right now I would say that I'm not going to support it. I happen to be an advocate for 9/11 responders with the foundation called the FealGood Foundation. And we've been fighting for a bill called the James Zadroga bill. In Congress it's known as HR847. We've been fighting for it for years. That bill carries along with it not only compensation, but health care for the next 30 years. This settlement that the city wants us to take is just a compensation package. It doesn't guarantee any type health care for the next 30 years or for anytime for that matter.

NORRIS: Mr. Klein, did you mind if I ask your age?

Mr. KLEIN: I'm 51 right now.

NORRIS: And do you know many other officers or firefighters, EMTs that are in a similar condition that spent a lot of time as you did down at the World Trade Center site?

Mr. KLEIN: Just about everybody in my unit, the emergency service unit spent hundreds and hundreds of hours down at ground zero. And I've quite a few friends that are firefighters that spent hundreds of hours down there. I lost a couple already who were in their 40s, who died from cancer. I have another one right now suffering from cancer and who may have just taken a turn for the worse. He had some blood testing done and, you know, I'm just praying for him that his blood tests come back okay.

NORRIS: Is there something in this settlement beyond the money, though, that was of importance to you, that that the city understood your claim and was somehow making at least an effort to not provide you with monetary compensation, but to signify that they understand what you've been going through?

Mr. KLEIN: Well, I think all along the city has been fighting us. This money has been sitting in a fund for eight and a half years. And just until last night, they decided that they were going to give this money out. I don't know what the reason is. I think they finally had to acknowledge that, you know, we're really sick, 9/11 responders are really sick.

NORRIS: Mr. Klein, you said that you haven't decided whether or not you're going to support this. When do you suspect that you'll make up your mind?

Mr. KLEIN: I'm going to take my time. They're giving us a 90-day window. I may take 89 to 90 days to decide. I've waited eight and a half years, I'm in no rush now, you know, I'm going to wait wait and see attitude, make sure that all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed before I make my decision, and I would recommend that to any other 9/11 responder.

NORRIS: Glen Klein, thanks for taking time to talk to us. You take care.

Mr. KLEIN: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

NORRIS: That was Glen Klein. He's a retired police officer from New York City. He's one of thousands of rescue and cleanup workers who sued New York after 9/11 over damage to their health. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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