Local woman deals with cancer diagnosis after helping with 9/11 cleanup

Vicky Brown and her Red Cross team arrived at ground zero, just a week after the twin towers fell in New York City
Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 9:20 AM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - This weekend Americans remember the 9/11 attacks. But for one local woman who helped with the cleanup of the fallen twin towers, the anniversary is another reminder of the nightmare she lived that week, and the nightmare she lives with today.

Vicky Brown and her Red Cross team arrived at ground zero, just a week after the twin towers fell in New York City. Twenty years later, she is battling cancer that she says is directly related to toxins she was exposed to while helping rebuild the city.

“There have been deaths on disasters that I’ve worked but nothing like the magnitude of this one and normally we fight mother nature and help people pass mother nature, this was just pure evil,” Brown said.

For more than 40 years, Brown has worked for the Red Cross. She’s seen lots of tragedy but nothing like the devastation she witnessed at ground zero, just days after the attacks.

“It was the best of humanity but when you figured out what you were doing it was the worst of humanity from a disaster standpoint and from the loss of life,” Brown said.

Now 20 years later, Brown is fighting a different enemy, cancer. She says her doctors link her diagnosis to the toxins that invaded her body at ground zero.

“They’ve all been attributed to exposure, environmental exposure from the World Trade Center, 20 years later, who would think,” Brown said.

Brown isn’t the only one dealing with health problems related to the disaster, her best friend and long time colleague was also diagnosed with cancer.

“I would always do it again to help people in need but I just wish scientifically we had known more information so we could take some more precautions,” Brown said.

Brown agrees the world changed that day in 2001, but American pride swelled. The county came together and stood strong. She says the pandemic and political turmoil severed that bond, at a time when we need it most.

“We don’t need to be fighting each other, we should ban together to make sure we can conquer all these other challenges that we have and do it with an act of kindness everyday and be a better person for it,” Brown said.

Brown says her cancer treatments seen to be working. She considers herself blesses and is optimistic health experts and scientists will take the lessons learned from 9/11 and better protect first responders and volunteers during emergencies.

Once she’s feeling up to it, Brown plans to get right back into working with the Red Cross.

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