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Mohawk Ironworkers in the aftermath of 9/11

Part 2 of the 9/11 story on APTN’s Mohawk Ironworkers continues tonight with the stories of three Mohawk men and their experiences following the collapse of the World Trade Center: John McGowan and Jaysen Mayo of Kahnawa:ke, and Brad Bonaparte of Akwesasne.

We first met John McGowen, a third generation ironworker, last week. John spent three and a half months at Ground Zero and since then has suffered from many maladies including asthma, sleep apnea, and acid reflux, all of which can be linked directly to his experiences there. Despite this, he continues to work and was one of several Mohawk ironworkers who built One World.

Jaysen Mayo was also a part of the rescue, recovery and cleanup at Ground Zero. To this day, he can recall the horrors he faced following the collapse.  As a result of his exposure to the various toxins during the cleanup, Jaysen suffers from decreased lung capacity and an auto-immune disease that requires monthly blood transfusions.

Brad Bonaparte of Akwesasne lost his life to cancer as a result of his exposure. His children share their memories of their father’s work at the WTC. The premature loss of Brad was also a significant loss to his community: Brad was a well-respected artist and storyteller, passionate about Mohawk teachings. Many of his steel creations mark the Akwesasne territory.

This episode goes on to reveal the abysmal lack of support workers initially received from the local, state, and federal governments in the U.S. First responders.  As well, ironworkers had no warnings regarding the toxic contaminants that were present at Ground Zero, nor were they supplied the proper protective gear that would have safeguarded them from harm.  It took two months for the U.S. government to implement a worksite safety plan for workers. This was too little and too late for an estimated 40,000 workers who had already been repeatedly exposed.

Having just marked the 15th anniversary of 9/11, this episode was rather touching. Here we met just a few of the heroes and their families, and we learned of some of their sacrifices in the infernal aftermath. A most appropriate tribute.

Mohawk Ironworkers airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. ET on APTN.

Carolyn Potts
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Carolyn Potts

Teacher. Writer. Mom. Masters' Candidate, Faculty of Education, Western University. Studying Pop Culture Media as a Decolonizer of Education Policy and Practice. I also volunteer as a Girl Guide leader in my spare time.
Carolyn Potts
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