Friday, March 31, 2006

Open Letter

Stuyvesant Alumni:
If you were at Stuyvesant during 9/11, please consider signing this letter! Although hard copies have already been sent out, we can keep adding signatures for future mailings. Leave your name and class year (and e-mail!) in a comment box or e-mail them to, and you will be added to the list. From now on I will no longer publish the comments that are simply signees, I will just add them to the petition and mailing list. The first round of mailings went to:
Rep. Jerrold Nadler
Sen. Hillary Clinton
Sen. Charles Schumer
Rep. Anthony Weiner
Speaker of the City Council Christine Quinn
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer
Former 9/11 Commission Member (and Stuy Alumnus) Richard Ben-Veniste
Bill Clinton
The New York Times
The Daily News

Open Letter:

To Whom it May Concern,

On February 2nd a federal judge found the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency Christie Whitman culpable enough to stand trial for putting the public in danger by making misleading statements about the air quality in lower Manhattan after the attacks of September 11th, thus upholding a class action suit filed on behalf of residents and school children in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. Students at Stuyvesant High School, were among the many that were directly affected by the misinformation released by the Environmental Protection Agency under her leadership. We had the additional misfortune of being the first students called back to lower Manhattan after the attacks. At the time, fires were still burning at the World Trade Center site and debris was being taken to the landfill by way of a barge located directly outside our school building. We had several fire drills in our first days back that informed us of our new emergency route, which led us even closer to the burning debris at the site of the destruction (our old emergency route, up West St., was being blocked by the barge and a large crane). Although the Board of Education continually assured us of the safety of the air at our school, the smell of smoke was strong every afternoon for months after the attacks. Parents were told at the first PTA meeting after our return, that nobody, even those of us with respiratory health concerns, would be able to leave Stuyvesant for the duration of the clean-up process; we had to stay or would forfeit our spots at the school. Given the effort most of us put into getting into Stuyvesant, leaving was not an option. Eventually, we learned that the school building had not been cleaned as thoroughly as promised.

Most of the Stuyvesant students that were seniors in the year of the attacks are graduating from college this year. We are entering a world in which jobs are scarce, starting pay is low, and public benefits are dwindling. As you know, health coverage is expensive and difficult to obtain, especially on a starting salary. More Americans go bankrupt as a result of health expenses than over any other issue, and the current Administration is making very little effort to make obtaining health coverage any easier or more affordable. Additionally, as college students and soon-to-be graduates, many of us have already accrued large amounts of debt to pay for our educations.

As the canaries used to promote the revitalization of downtown Manhattan after 9/11, we were given no choice but to accept the health risks that went along with attending school in lower Manhattan in the 2001/2002 school year. Ms. Whitman’s assurances were a very relevant part of why we were permitted to return to our building, which had been used as the command center for the rescue effort at Ground Zero, only a month after September 11th, on October 9th, 2001. Our administrators and teachers already have health coverage. As students, we don’t. As victims of 9/11, and, especially, victims of Ms. Whitman’s misinformation campaign, we served as "draftees" in the media campaign to reassure the American people. At the least, in recognition of the risks we undertook simply by attending school, we should be guaranteed health insurance for the rest of our lives. It is imperative that you support us in this effort. We request your help in meeting this goal, ideally by supporting the introduction of legislation towards this end.
Lila Nordstrom
(+ 240 Stuyvesant alumni and counting)