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NY firefighters visit Vail firehouse
By Christine Ina Casillas
August 16, 2003
New York firefighter Joe Higgins can no longer fight fires. He
involuntarily retired from the New York Fire Department shortly after
responding to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center because
of health problems caused by a variety of toxins released when the
Higgins lost two brothers - both firefighters - in the disaster. In
the following months, he had trouble breathing and sleeping. He was
often awakened by nightmares and, he says, the trauma always will stay
Like Higgins, many firefighters who were at Ground Zero still suffer
from not only the terrible memories of Sept. 11., but also from toxic
exposure. Firefighters have spent the two years since the attacks
going to memorial services and funerals for their colleagues while
also dealing with their own deteriorating health.
"There was so many sick members of the teams," said Israel Miranda,
health and safety coordinator for one of New York's paramedics unions.
"After many surveys, the long-term said that 10 years down the line, a
lot of these guys wouldn't have a quality of life."
Five New York firefighters and emergency medical services personnel
who suffered physically and mentally from the tragedy of Sept. 11
visited the Vail Valley Tuesday.
The group met with local firefighters at Vail's firehouse and went to
the Vilar Center to attend the Beaver Creek Theatre Festival
performance of "The Guys" - a play based on a real New York fire chief
who faced the unbearable task of eulogizing most of his crew who died
in the attacks.
They also attended a fund raiser Tuesday night.
"These guys are just like us," Vail Fire Chief John Gulick said.
"There are so many similarities between our departments, except that
their department is more intense."
After the attacks on the World Trade Center, many of the firefighters
say they didn't think they'd see the age of 50. Others said they would
be taking medicine for the rest of their life just to breath.
"When you remain on meds, that's just something you do," Higgins said.
"It's not a problem to be in the field only for so long because that's
what we did for a living. We dug people out of the rubble. We were on
While the firefighters worked around the clock for days at Ground Zero
cleaning up the remains of the towers, many noticed physical affects
from the toxins. The attacks on the towers, and their collapse,
brought toxins that began with a dust storm of pulverized concrete,
steel, asbestos, carpeting, office equipment and other hazardous
"There were many sick people," Miranda said. "I had trouble sleeping.
I was edgy all the time. I snapped at my family and my children.
"These are traits you do not need when you're responsible for the
health and safety unit of the biggest EMS in the country," he said.
The toxins released after the buildings came down caused many to
suffer asthma, heart conditions and trauma.
"These guys weren't sleeping, they weren't eating and they couldn't
exercise," said Joanie Sigel, a spokeswoman for the New York Rescue
Workers Detoxification Fund. "In September 2002, we opened a
detoxification clinic in downtown Manhattan with more than 150 rescue
workers who received the detox."
The detoxification clinic is part of a research project that was
founded more than 20 years ago to help remove drugs and residuals from
the body, said Jim Woodworth, director of operations for the New York
Rescue Workers Detoxificiation Project.
Two clinics were set up in Los Angeles by medical doctors who used L.
Ron Hubbard's method of detoxification.
"Thousands of people went through the program with chemical exposures
and street drugs with great success," Woodworth said. "We started to
receive calls as early as Sept. 14 from people who knew about the
program and asked us for help."
The program involves a precise regimen of daily sauna bathing and
exercise along with vitamin-, mineral- and oil-supplements, he said.
"The guys miraculously reversed my health," Higgins said. "After long
hospital visits and months of drugs and prescriptions to keep me
breathing, I resigned to be on medicines for the rest of my life.
"Then I ran into Jim and said sarcastically, "What are you going to do
for me?' These guys take what they're doing to another level," he
Through sweat, excretion and glands, the toxins leave the body,
The detoxification program might be one of the leading, cutting edge
projects in the country, Gulick said.
"They have a better quality of life," Gulick said. "With the lingering
affects of Sept. 11, two years later they have improved their quality
of life and extended their quality of life after the fire services.
"Now while they're in town," he said, "we're just enjoying a little
bit of the brotherhood with them."
Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at
LETTER TO THE VAIL FD
I recently read an article about a visit your department received from
members of the NYFD. I am deeply concerned about the mention of the New
York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project.
As you know, scam artists crawled out of the woodwork following the
catastrophic destruction of the World Trade Center. Foremost among them
was the "Church" of Scientology, which immediately launched into a
campaign to profit from this tragedy. Before you give any support to
the NY Detox Project, there are a few things you should be made aware of
immediately. I hope you will take the time to look at this information.
First of all, the Scientology organization sent "Volunteer Ministers" to
New York, in an attempt to establish a media presence and gain access to
people who were still suffering from shock and grief, and therefore
vulnerable, just as they did following the Columbine High School
shooting. Internal emails from Volunteer Ministers in NY revealed that
these "Ministers," banned from the Ground Zero footprint, sneaked in
around barricades, endangering rescue workers with their untrained
presence. They also disrupted legitimate mental health professionals who
were present to assist victims. Here is an excerpt from one of the
emails from "Lt." Simon Hare;
"Additionally we are trying to move in and knock the psychs out of
counseling to the grieving families and that could take another 100 plus
people right now. Due to some brilliant maneuvering by some simply
genius Sea Org Members we tied up the majority of the psychs who were
attempting to get to families yesterday in Q&A, bullbait and wrangling.
They have a hard time completing cycles of action and are pretty easy to
disperse. But today they are out in full force and circling like
vultures over these people and all of our resources are tied up in the
support efforts in the disaster zone at present."
Hare is a Lieutenant in the Sea Organization (Sea Org,) Scientology's
paramilitary body which mimics the Navy.
The rest of these emails may be read here:
Immediately following the disaster, a crawling banner appeared on Fox
News, offering "mental health" assistance through an entity called the
National Mental Health Assistance, which has the same acronym as the
legitimate National Mental Health Association. The phone number
displayed connected to the Dianetics 800 number. Dianetics is part of
the Scientology organization. The banner was pulled after Fox was made
aware of this deceitful attempt to gain access to victims of this tragedy.
The Scientology organization also launched a big PR campaign at the same
time, promoting its "volunteer ministers" and preying on peoples' fear
of terrorism. I hope you can see that this group is attempting to
profit from tragedy, something they have a long history of doing.
This brings me to the NY Rescue Workers Detoxification Project. The
Scientology organization has a front group called Narconon, a drug and
detox program based on the "science" of college dropout and pulp fiction
writer L. Ron Hubbard, a man in no way qualified to devise such a
program. The NY Rescue Workers Detoxification Project is nothing more
than a front group of a front group. Legitimate studies of
Scientology's detox program show it to be an ineffective and potentially
dangerous regime based on nothing more than Hubbard's vivid imagination.
He was not a doctor, although he purchased a doctorate from Sequoia
University, a now defunct diploma mill. It's important to keep this in
mind while reviewing the shining testimonials and fabulous statistics
put out by the Scientology organization's slick PR team. There is an
extensive review of the Narconon program at
This extensively researched site is well documented, and reveals the
Narconon program to be nothing more than a recruiting branch for the
"Church" of Scientology. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop had
this to say about this detox program in an interview of a book touting
Question. What about the author's detoxification advice? He credits L.
Ron Hubbard,the founder of Scientology with some of the theories he
Answer. "My recommendation about detoxification is to keep away from it.
You don't need it. I'm not sure it does what this book describes. It's
dangerous. I don't think L. Ron Hubbard has credibility in the
scientific world. The author's suggestions about
detoxification can be detrimental to your health. " - C. Everett Koop, M.D.
I hope you will look beyond the unsubstantiated claims offered by
promoters of the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project. This
is a dangerous and fraudulent attempt on the part of Scientology to
continue benefitting from the 911 tragedy. It is repugnant to me that
they're targetting the brave and deeply appreciated men and women of our
country's Fire Departments.
I love you all and the work you do. Be well.
LETTER TO CHRISTINE INA CASILLAS
Regarding your article about this group, there are two things you should
be made aware of.
1. It is a front group for the "church" of Scientology, which has been
trying to profit from the 911 tragedy since day one.
2. The Detoxification Project is a front group for the front group
Narconon, itself a front group for the Scientology organization.
It is repugnant to me that this cult is targetting firefighters in an
effort to garner good PR and recruits. There are many websites exposing
the 50 year history of Scientology and founder L. Ron Hubbard. One of
the most extensive sites is:
I hope you will look at some of this material so you can better
understand the nature of Scientology's predatory and deceitful tactics
in the wake of tragedy.
"An independent (non-Scientology related) study of the Purification Rundown
was proposed in 1985 by Dr. Joseph Miceli, Associate Professor of Pediatrics
and Pharmacy, Children's Hospital of Michigan. Dr. Miceli's proposal
suggested that the method might actually have some value in reducing
toxins (PBBs and PCBs) from the body - but not for any of the reasons
suggested by its author, L. Ron Hubbard. However, the Human Subject Review
Committee at Wayne State University refused to allow the study to proceed
because it was deemed unfit for human experimentation, according to
Dr. Doug Spathelf, research director at Central Michigan University, and
Dr. Daniel Graf, research director at Wayne State University."
"After over 50 years, what has Scientology given the world? Misery,
hopelessness, broken families, desolation, death."
"I remember when my son said "Every day should be Mother's Day." But
those were the days before L Ron Hubbard came into his life."