Monday, August 31, 2009

Four-Star Review for Vito After : )

Thank you Mr. Gibron and
"An intriguing and powerful documentary..."
A film review by Bill Gibron - Copyright © 2009
For New York City police detective Vito Friscia, the months after 9/11 have been very difficult indeed. Haunted by the memories of that fateful day, the duty he and his fellow officers had to endure, and the lingering physical and psychological effects of same, he remains resilient... or at least, he tries. It's not easy, especially with so many in the fraternity suffering a similar fate -- or worse. Still, he needs to remain focused, for his family, for the girl's soccer team he coaches, for his own peace of mind. But as with any life-altering incident, it's not always easy. At the insistence of his concerned sister-in-law, Maria Pusateri, Friscia agrees to sit down before the camera. Thus begins Vito After, an intriguing and powerful documentary that uses one man's story to personalize the devastating aftermath from the deadliest terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil. As part of the investigation into what happened that fateful day, Ground Zero (and eventually, a nearby landfill) are designated crime scenes, detectives needed to sift through the rubble for anything that can help bring closure to the case. This includes victims' identification, mementos, even body parts. In total, the police spent weeks working the location, desperate to help authorities and the victim's families gain closure. Engulfed in a near constant cloud of powdered concrete and various other toxins, many in Friscia's force have developed what they now jokingly refer to as "WTC cough," and much of Vito After centers on our subject's stubbornness when it comes to seeing a doctor. With a constant drip in his sinuses and other lung concerns, we see him argue with his wife and the director herself over the proper course of treatment. He finally agrees to be examined on the condition that his better half stops smoking. A dinner table discussion of the subject between Friscia and his family (including a young daughter and son) is a moment of levity in an otherwise somber affair.Vito After manages to get a lot of information across in a mere 49 minutes. We hear from other officers who worked with Friscia, their gallows humor approach covering a wealth of concerns. There are also a few talking head "experts" thrown in to emphasize the dangers involved. While never dry, they do tend to take away from what is an otherwise engaging portrait. It is said that a documentary is only as good as its subject, and in Friscia, Pusateri finds an intriguing hook. He's definitely a member of the Men in Blue brotherhood, caught up in the honor and duty such a position implies. But he's also a young man, made up of the doubt and fears that come with witnessing a horrific event. Since filming started in 2002 (lasting through 2004), we get a nice overview of time and its healing properties. Friscia enjoys telling the camera how focused and "fine" he is, but there are moments when the fa├žade falls and we can see how complicated his feelings really are. There have been a few suspicious deaths since the investigation, young men dying suddenly from heart and other previously non-existent pulmonary conditions, and even with his brave demeanor, every trip to the doctor reads like a possible death sentence to Friscia. His discomfort is understandable, and obvious.While we are living with the political toll every day, the personal side of 9/11 seems mostly forgotten. A fine film like Vito After should remind us that, even if the world realigns itself toward a more peaceful path, that horrific fall event will remain with many of us forever -- whether we like it or not. Aka Vito After: A 9/11 Responder Copes in the Aftermath.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hundreds of 9/11 first responders die of cancer - RT Top Stories. Why isn't this covered all over the U. S. major media? Hello? !!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Faithful Response - anonymous support for responders

If you are a 9/11 responder having difficulties coping, you can receive anonymous mental health support, please seek help at Faithful Response.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

9/11 responder praises "Vito After"

I'm very honored and grateful for this email from a 9/11 responder. Sadly, he is among the thousands suffering from lung disease.

"I first want to thank you for taking the time to immediately send the DVD out to me. It just goes to show what a special person you are. My wife and I sat down to watch, I was a bit reluctant to watch with her, being I have shut out as much memories of those two years of my life as possible. The film was excellent! It captured every real aspect of what we truly went through, it was kind of like watching my life story. I will admit I broke down a few times during the film, it brought back a lot of memories--the brotherhood of how everyone became so close as we worked so many hours each day, day after day in hope of finding someone, sleeping at St. Paul's church, passing the growing number of posters of the missing put up by their loved ones was heart breaking, but gave us the energy to go on, the land fill, the boiling ground below us, the question of the masks was so right on. The [stages] of WTC medical monitoring--I laughed at this point [filling out the intake survey] when you asked: will all cops answer this way?....most of us lied!!!! and checked off a lot of "not at all" -- that's how cops are, we had to uphold the tough guy image. You did a wonderful job. I will show this to family and friends, who will appreciate it as much as I did. Again, thank you so much for taking the time to show people what we went through, and for sending me this film. God bless you and your family. I wish Vito the best of health always....just one of "The Greatest Detectives in The World".

Thursday, August 20, 2009

'Symbol of everyday heroes' Valley Stream man is subject of film on Sept. 11 health issues

This article was on the front page of the VALLEY STREAM HERALD last week. Thank you Andrew Hackmack!

'Symbol of everyday heroes' Valley Stream man is subject of film on Sept. 11 health issues

By Andrew Hackmack
August 20, 2009

Though Maria Pusateri finished her documentary about the health of Sept. 11 responders four years ago, she is still working hard to get the word out about the film. "Vito After" features Valley Stream resident Vito Friscia, a now-retired New York City police detective who was at ground zero following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

While with the NYPD, Friscia recalled, he was on his way to the World Trade Center site after the south tower fell and was about a block and a half away when the north tower collapsed. He worked in "the pit" at ground zero for about a week after the attacks, then was stationed at the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, where he helped sort through the rubble.Friscia, a father of two, said he started developing health problems almost immediately. By November of 2001, Pusateri, his sister-in-law, was already talking about making a film about the illnesses he and other Sept. 11 responders were suffering from. "This is not right," Pusateri said she remembers thinking at the time. "The responders are getting sick."

By April of 2002, shortly after Friscia stopped working at the landfill, she had convinced him to be her subject. "Vito After" follows him through his daily activities, medical visits and conversations with other first responders from the NYPD. Friscia said that although the police department had doubts about his doing the film, he felt it was important to get the information out.

Now, almost eight years later, Friscia still suffers from chronic sinusitis, a swelling of the sinuses. He has a regular cough, occasional shortness of breath and rashes, and his voice is more hoarse. Many others who responded to the World Trade Center or worked alongside him at the landfill have the same symptoms. Some are extremely sick, he said.As a result of his health issues, Friscia said, his overall quality of life has changed. "When I do get sick now," he said, "I get sick worse than I usually do."

He retired from the NYPD in August of 2007. A graduate of East Rockaway High School, Friscia has lived in Valley Stream for 20 years. He and his wife, Lisa, have a daughter, Lisa, 17, and a son, Vito, 12. He coaches his daughter's team in the Valley Stream Soccer League and his son's Colts baseball team. Pusateri, of Syosset, said she began showing her 48-minute film at festivals in 2005. She won the Best Documentary award at the 2006 Long Island International Film Expo in Bellmore. But "Vito After" has attracted little attention, she said, and she wants people to know about the health issues Sept. 11 responders are dealing with.

"Vito After" is available on Amazon and has also recently become available on Netflix. "You can't put that on yourself," she said. "Netflix has to approve it. They liked it a lot, obviously."Copies are also available at the Henry Waldinger Memorial Library. Pusateri said she will send a free copy to any Sept. 11 responder. She described the documentary as an "uplifting and honest film," and Friscia as a remarkable subject. "He's really a symbol for all of these everyday heroes," Pusateri said. "It's important that people get an intimate look at what someone like him is going through."

Mike Arcari, executive director of Faithful Response, said he uses the movie as a training tool for his therapists. Faithful Response, which is based in North Bellmore, provides mental health support for those impacted by the events of Sept. 11. "If you were there and you were affected by it, we provide you assistance," Arcari said. He added that "Vito After" provides insight into how families have been affected by the attacks, and it reminds people that Sept. 11 is more than just the sobering numbers of dead and injured. "It puts a face on the tragedy," Arcari said of the movie. Friscia, who is taking part in a study of Sept. 11 responders that monitors their health, said he hopes the film gains a wider audience, because many people don't realize what still-suffering police officers, firefighters, rescue personnel and other workers and volunteers are going through.

The House Judiciary Committee recently approved a portion of the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, to provide long-term comprehensive health care for those who were sickened or injured in the aftermath of the attacks. A vote by the full House is expected by the eighth anniversary of Sept. 11 next month. Friscia said he hopes the law passes and believes it is only right. "I hope they take care of us," he said. "I don't think that's a lot to ask. We all got sick so fast."Comments about this story? or (516) 569-4000 ext. 265.
©Herald Community 2009

I would just like to clarify two things in the above article: where I mentioned it hasn't attracted much attention, I meant it hasn't yet attracted the attention of the major media (which so many feel it deserves). I'm grateful for all the high praises it has received from people who have seen it, at film festivals, other screenings, and those who have reviewed it. I also need to clarify that the free DVD offer is for 9/11 responders who are ill and having financial difficulties. (There is a standing 50% discount for any first responder, whether or not you were at WTC.) Please email maria(at) for further details. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

9/11 Health Fallout - that time of year again...

This is the time of year when the media gives some overdue attention to the 9/11 health crisis -- which should be a much bigger story that is more widely reported year-round .... so, why don't they cover it more thoroughly?

If anyone doesn't believe these illnesses were caused by the toxic WTC dust, they must be living under a rock! It’s heartbreakingly tragic that these heroes have to suffer from such devastating illnesses. Thousands of responders are just waiting for the other shoe to drop, wondering if they or their colleagues will be next; and many continue to suffer emotionally from their experiences as well. They were just doing their job, and now their lives may be taken from them. How many more stories like this do we have to hear before the government passes the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act?

9/11 Responders May Be At Raised Myeloma Risk
Cases are appearing at a younger age than is normal, researchers note

U.S. News & World Report

Immune System Cancer Found in Young 9/11 Officers
NY Times - The Associated Press