Stories of Recovery – 9/11

Lowell is a 70-year-old man who resides with his wife in Flushing, Queens. He worked for an advertising firm on the 12th floor of the Empire State Building when the attacks of 9/11 occurred. A veteran of the Vietnam War, and a reservist, he spent the ensuing months sifting through rubble, organizing the delivery of heavy lift cranes across the George Washington Bridge, and leading young volunteers in response operations. He slept in the Mayor’s Emergency Bunker at Ground Zero for 40 days, eventually returning home to his wife in late October 2001.

In 2009 Lowell was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer, a 9/11 exposure related cancer. He was hospitalized for over 700 days and spent the next four years receiving almost daily outpatient treatment, slowly regaining the ability to walk. In 2014 he received an award from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund – to cover his substantial medical debts.

Unfortunately, in 2017 he was once again diagnosed with cancer, this time an aggressive form of lung cancer. With the assistance of advocates at VOICES of September 11th, he re-applied for the @9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund to cover his new diagnosis. The award determination process can be lengthy however, and in October 2018, with his medical debt mounting again, he had still yet to receive his first payment.

As a result of their medical costs, the couple was now 3 months behind on their rent and the landlord had begun eviction proceedings. That’s when Voices of September 11th referred Lowell to NYDIS’ 9/11 Unmet Needs Roundtable. With funds donated by the Presbytery of New York City, NYDIS was able to fund the rental arrears and keep Lowell and his wife in their home. NYDIS was also able to pay the arrears on their electric bill with a final shut off notice, the check was cut the same day and kept their lights on too.

In early 2019, Lowell did receive a second payment from the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund to cover his lung cancer treatment debts. His prognosis remains uncertain, but because of organizations like the Presbytery that recognize the importance of continuing to fund unmet needs 18 years into the recovery process, Lowell remains safely in his home and focusing on his medical health emotional well being.

– Meryl Hulse – Manager, Client Services

(Pictured: Meryl reading Lowell’s recovery story during NYDIS’ 2019 Annual Partnership Awards, 5/30/2019)