Friday, January 25, 2008

George Tabb Q&A

George Headshot
In the January issue of Harp, you'll find a medium-sized news story about George Tabb and his struggles with 9-11 ills (full article below--Harp went under and their website is gone). I truly believe this is one of the biggest fuckups of our time and I'm a huge fan of Tabb's so I'm proud to do my teensy part to help him and the cause out. (As soon as I get my check for this story--which won't be much--it's going straight to the help George Tabb fund, as will any money I earn writing about this topic.)

Also, a big thanks to Monica Nelson for busting her ass to help me get all the stats I needed on a crazy short deadline and to Scott and Randy at Harp for being so enthusiastic about this story. They actually wanted a longer piece, but I'm holding out for a bigger publication and hoping this shorter story will help one of the majors see what a good story this could be if I went to New York and hung out with Tabb a little.

Here's the full email interview from December 1, 2007 that's referenced in the article. Notice how the answers get shorter with each question. His energy must have been disappearing as he typed...

Simmantics: Can you give a description of a day in the life of George Tabb? What do you do? How do you pass your days? Who is around you? What do you talk about? Do you sleep well? Are you in pain? How much pain? Where is the pain and how does it feel? What's your state of mind?

Tabb: Kinda a tough question, Jason. And depressing. I used to be able to take my dog for long walks...even like 6 months ago. And that would wear me out and stuff..but I just loved walking with him...his name is Scooter and he's a little tough Yorkie. Anyway, as time has been passing, I've been getting worse. More pain in the abdominal area and head. More meds. Harder to breather. More meds. Actually, all I do is get plenty of sleep. For every hour I am awake, I must sleep an hour. So itls about 12 hours of each every day. I'm home except when I got to see doctors or to get food. It's kinda depressing, but I'm hoping things will reverse themselves and I'll get out more. But right now..the pain is too much. And being around of a lot of people makes me VERY nervous. If they bump into me, it will really hurt. Even with the body brace I wear. And since my immune system is shuttiing down, I get sick easier. Sorry it's such a depressing answer. But, well, I just stay home and try and stay alive. And hope and pray for good things. For everyone.

Simmantics: Right after 9/11 you were getting press. No one's written about you in the national media for a few years. Why?

Tabb: Everyone is slowly coming to the conclusion that I was right. At first, I was an oddball, a kook, a freak, a conspiracy theorist. At least to the media. Now I am making them look bad and they don't like that. But more than that, no one wants to tell the truth about the poisons downtown. They all own real estate down there and are afraid to lose money. Meanwhile, Wall Street is slowly moving away as are most businesses. Notice how they haven't built anything on Ground Zero yet. Sad.

Simmantics: How have you changed as a result of this experience? In your writing you seem generally positive, hopeful, innocent and kind. Have these qualities been eroded or strengthened by your ordeal?

Tabb: I'm still kind and love life. And this does sterngthen that. Weirld, but true. Life is supposed to be good. I know, cause I've seen and am seeing bad. But I'm still very hopeful.

Simmantics: What's the likelihood you'll make it to 70 years old? How likely are you to see 2009? Are you confident you'll make it to 2008?

Tabb: That's a bad question to ask. I take things one day at a time. If I'm up and around tomorrow, it's a good day.

Simmantics: What was the worst, saddest, or most disappointing day for you since you got sick? What was the best, most hopeful, most joyous?

Tabb: Don't want to talk about it. But thanks, Jason.

Simmantics: Could you talk about Monica for a minute? What's the most surprising or most touching thing you've been through together or that she's done for you? Who else has been a great help to you?

Tabb: Monica has done so much for me I can't begin to describe it. She's is the epitomy of that's good and human. To have a friend like her is the best feeling in the world. And she HAS saved my life. She finds new ways to touch my soul on a weekly basis. There are others who help, too. Check to see who.

This isn't the last you'll hear from me about this issue. But for now I'll leave you with Tabb's video on the subject. Part 1:

...and Part 2:

George Tabb vs. 9/11 Syndrome:
Who’s Picking Up the Tabb?
By Jason Simms

George Tabb is being murdered. The central, most maddening and often funniest character in his memoir Surfing Armageddon and Playing Right Field, his brutally abusive and demented father, didn’t do him in. In fact, young George was well-adjusted enough to achieve his dream of actually becoming a member of the Ramones (if briefly). And none of the Greenwich Gestapo—who all but gassed him for growing up Jewish in the wrong place—tracked him down at a Furious George, Iron Prostate or Roach Motel show. No. After all he’s been through, George Tabb is being murdered by greed.

On September 18, 2001, Tabb and about 70,000 others were told it was safe to return to their apartments in lower Manhattan. It wasn’t safe, and Tabb suspected as much. Perhaps you saw him shortly after the attack in People or on television saying there would be a cancer cluster in New York? At the time, the media had nothing to lose putting Tabb on the air. “I was an oddball, a kook, a freak, a conspiracy theorist,” he writes from his apartment on a rare day when he’s well enough to email.

George Tabb suffers from polycystic kidney disease, which causes his kidneys to resemble moldy grapefruits and feel like a pair of appendixes that are about to burst. It’s incurable, though treatment can prolong life, and the only way to get it other than inheritance—and there is no trace of PKD in Tabb’s family—is from extreme exposure to harsh chemicals. He also, in his video blog, lists blown-out sinuses, severe asthma and other pulmonary and gastro-esophageal problems. If it seems like the EPA’s claim that it was safe for lower Manhattan residents to return home was bogus, it’s because according to one of the agency’s own scientists, it is. Senior EPA chemist Cate Jenkins, in an email to Senator Hillary Clinton, stated that the EPA flat-out committed “scientific fraud.”

The number of deaths from 9/11-associated illnesses is placed between 130 and 200. Tabb is one of an undocumented number of residents who are severely ill. He experiences periodic blindness and deafness, extreme pain aggravated by motion, and dangerously high blood pressure. Unless he wants to risk death, he’s been advised to do nothing but watch TV.

Though there’s no other explanation for it, Tabb’s illness is not formally recognized by New York’s two federally funded clinics as something that could result from exposure to the fallout dust in Manhattan. But those clinics’ primary function has been merely to diagnose, not treat. When Tabb visited the program at Bellevue Hospital, it took several minutes to find anyone who had even heard of the program they were supposed to be administering.

Out of a $1 billion insurance fund set aside by the government to cover injuries from 9/11, the only person to receive a dime is a man who fell off a ladder doing cleanup. Meanwhile, $47 million has been spent to fight claims like Tabb’s. In the meantime, Tabb’s insurance benefits have been exhausted, leaving him to pay for operations and medications out of pocket and with donated funds.

So why has no mainstream news outlet picked up on Tabb’s plight as of late?

“No one wants to tell the truth about the poisons downtown,” he says. “They all own real estate down there and are afraid to lose money.” This, while ex-EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman, whose handling of 9/11 is still under investigation, invokes meaningless jingoistic clich├ęs to justify her own personal “mission accomplished” embarrassment. She told Congress in 2004, “We weren’t going to let the terrorists win.”

The government appears acutely aware that the costs to treat the 70,000 people who are potentially sick would be astronomical, especially since some doctors estimate that 70% of them will be come ill in the next 20 years. Add interest in the form of political embarrassment and it’s only going to get worse—it’s a harsh reality for everyone, especially George Tabb and his fellow victims.

Tabb’s friend and primary advocate, Obituaries vocalist Monica Nelson, who gives speeches on Tabb’s behalf and helps raise funds (,, notes the contrast between the patriotic party line on 9/11 and the passive murder of the tragedy’s newest victims: “The people exposed to that toxicity had no choice in it. Nobody deserved that. It’s un-American to ignore that.”

She believes we ought to turn to Tabb’s memoirs—which, despite his own struggle, show him championing underdogs from a mentally handicapped kid to a wimpy wrestler—for inspiration. “His writings have never been about feel-sorry-for-me kind of stuff. It’s surviving and helping somebody who’s worse off than you, picking somebody up.”


  1. A group of folks have filed a class-action lawsuit about this. George should get in on it, if he's not already. The latest development, from what I've read, is that a judge refused to let Christine Todd Whitman off the hook personally for her role. (Sorry if you know this already.) So if you peg it to the lawsuit, hearings, etc, I'm sure you can get the story into wider circulation. Good work!

  2. This is such a terrible thing. I've tried spreading the word to my friends and family about it as much as I can, trying to get them to read his books and columns but it just never seems like enough.

    Don't take his life. Please.

  3. Those were the worst questions in the history of all interviews. He didn't say much because all of your questions were depressing as hell. You should have asked questions that would have set him up to show his great sense of humor. You missed the point more than Michael Bay missed the mark when he made "Pearl Harbor".
    "Pearl Harbor" sucked.

  4. I think George at that time of the interview was having an onslought of bad days pain wise and that it might've been hard for him to display any kind of sense of humor that we ARE used to. Which is why for periods he wouldn't want anyone to see him, he didn't want to depress anyone. He's learned to better deal with the bad days and get through them.