For the FDNY, a Grim Post-9/11 Milestone

Number of deaths from 9/11-related illness equals number of deaths on day of attacks
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2023 7:51 PM CDT
For the FDNY, a Grim Post-9/11 Milestone
This Sept 12, 2001 file photo shows workers at Ground Zero.   (AP Photo/Suzanne Plunkett, File)

Less than two weeks after the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Fire Department of New York reached a disturbing milestone: The number of firefighters to die from 9/11-related illnesses reached 343, equaling the number of firefighters killed on the day of the attacks. The FDNY said EMT Hilda Vannata died from cancer on Sept. 20 and retired firefighter Robert Fulco died Saturday from pulmonary fibrosis, a lung condition, CNN reports.

Vannata and Fulco's illnesses were the result of "time they spent working in the rescue and recovery at the World Trade Center site," Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a statement posted on Instagram. "We have long known this day was coming, yet its reality is astounding just the same," Kavanagh said. She said another 11,000 FDNY responders suffer from WTC-related diseases, including 3,500 with cancer. Kavanagh added: "343 of our heroes lost in one day, and today, 343 more. The FDNY will never forget them. This is our legacy. This is our promise."

Dr. Michael Crane, the medical director of the World Trade Center Health Program Clinical Center of Excellence at Mount Sinai Hospital, tells NPR that firefighters were at especially high risk of exposure to toxic substances because they dug through rubble that burned for months at Ground Zero. "They would lift something, and flames would shoot out, because it was still on fire down below—all the chemicals, all the oil and all the stuff that's flammable in a building like that would go on fire again, because it met oxygen when they opened up the space," he says. "It was hell on earth." (More 9/11 attacks stories.)

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