On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we honor and remember the lives that were lost, the sacrifice of those who responded, and the lives that were forever changed.
In a recent editorial published in the American Journal of Public Health, “Twenty Years After 9/11: The Public Health Preparedness We Need Now,” leadership from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials explores what the past 20 years since 9/11 have taught us about our emergency response capabilities and reflects on the future of public health preparedness.
Messages in the Dust
On September 11, 2001, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) in the U.K. was in the middle of its annual conference. Astounded by what had happened, CIEH took immediate action to assist environmental health in the U.S. in the aftermath of the attacks and donated money to NEHA to use in ways that NEHA saw fit.
NEHA's first idea was to forward the funds to public health agencies affected by these events. These agencies, however, indicated that they did not need the financial assistance. The NEHA Board of Directors discussed the appropriate use of these funds at length. A decision was made to have a professional writer prepare a lessons learned report that would examine the response of environmental health professionals to the events of 9/11.
In September 2003, NEHA released the report titled “Messages in the Dust” and published the executive summary of the report in the December 2003 Journal of Environmental Health (JEH). It was NEHA’s intent to see that environmental health professionals throughout the country—and even the world—learn what the lessons were from the environmental health response to the attacks. It was hoped that the information provided in the report would inform and guide the environmental health response to future emergency events and disasters.