9/11 Worker Bares His Soul About 'Opting In' on Health Settlement

"I don't regret going down there ... I wouldn't do it again. Not what I went through the last nine years, and I'm still going through it.

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    Brian Thompson reports. (Published Friday, Nov. 19, 2010)

    Jimmy Nolan admits it, "I've got a lot of anger in me."

    He is a construction tradesman, a hard hat, proud that he helped build New York, proud that he worked for six months straight at Ground Zero.

    And he is ill.

    Nolan, 47, said in an interview with NBCNewYork that doctors have told him he is among the sickest of the sick with lung and sinus infections, migraines and post traumatic stress.

    "I'm not looking for a lot of money," Nolan said while sitting in his middle class Yonkers living room, and then added, "I'd be happy (with) what I used to take home every week."

    Nolan explained he can no longer work because he can't control himself and his anger, "It's just I can't do things what I used to do years ago."

    His wife Donna explained, "I don't think it was ever about the money. I just wanted once to hear from somebody, anybody that 'Wow, look at what the construction workers did.'"

    The construction workers did not, for the most part, die in the collapse of the Twin Towers like hundreds of firemen, and dozens of police and EMS workers did.

    But unlike those first responders, the hard hats worked day after day, every day for months on end, first in the fumes of a smoldering pile, and then amidst clouds of toxic dust kicked up by their work and the winds that would howl through the canyons of Lower Manhattan that first winter.

    And now they are paying the price.

     Nolan has a dining room table stacked with old prescriptions from just the past year or so, along with his 'pumps,' that he uses to help him breath when the lung infections set in.

    And unlike public employees such as fire and police, as a construction worker he gets none of the retirement or disability benefits they do(a law named after him is expected to pay workers compensation to those like him, except he has yet to collect a penny).

    His co-pays on medicines, he estimated, total in the thousands of dollars over these past nine years.

    "Money is not going to bring back my health," he said.

    Now unable to work, as his wife Donna, who is a multiple cancer survivor, Nolan said proudly "I don't regret going down there."

    But when pressed, he admitted, while fighting back tears, "I tell you the truth, I wouldn't do it again. Not what I went through the last nine years, and I'm still going through it."

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