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Gainesville woman who volunteered at 9/11 Ground Zero says “please wear a mask”

Published: Jan. 7, 2021 at 7:03 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - September 11th is a date known as one of the most tragic days in our country’s history. Those who were at Ground Zero carry physical as well as emotional scars.

Many are still fighting through health effects from the toxins they were exposed to, now years later-- which makes them among those at high-risk for COVID-19.

“It’s one of those things where it feels like it was a million years ago and it also feels like it was yesterday,” said London Allen.

London was a 23-year-old photojournalist, living in Manhattan, on September 11, 2001. She lived less than a mile from the World Trade Center.

“It was just like anyone who was close or far --- it was a traumatic day.”

Instead of running in fear, London ran to Ground Zero when the planes hit.

“I had respirators from my work and a ton of flashlights ... and I brought those to Canal Street-- which was the border of Ground Zero. I was like ‘well I have respirators’ ... and suddenly I had 20 people in front of me ... and in 5 seconds everything I had was gone.”

London spent nine months helping the city rebuild, taking photos to capture the moments along the way.

Now 20 years later, she has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer as a direct result of the toxins she was exposed to at Ground Zero.

“The 9/11 community, in particular, is so at-risk for this COVID-19 virus,” said Michael Barasch, a lawyer for the 9/11 community. “Most of them are not first responders ... they are former teachers, students, office workers, residents, and volunteers like London.”

As a mother to three children, despite being at high-risk, London continues to provide for her family by running her estate business in Gainesville. She said she has been grateful that --because she has to work closely with people-- most of who she asks to wear masks, do so.

“I’ve always been very private about my 9/11 experiences for the most part. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it and for me, it’s more private ... but I have to tell people to please wear a mask because I have this cancer related to 9/11.”

She said she knows that not everyone with underlying conditions wants to share their stories-- which is why she wishes everyone wore a mask without being told.

“It can be disheartening ... because should I have to tell everybody I got cancer at Ground Zero? You know... it’s that balance of how much do I have to expose myself to get protection?”

London hopes her story might inspire at least one person to do their part.

“I need people to wear masks ... I have an added risk and I feel like it’s fair to ask. I don’t think I am some fantastic person ... but look what I did to help other people-- you don’t have to do that. All you have to do is wear a mask and it helps other people.”

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