No American will ever forget the attacks that took place on September 11, 2001.
Millions tuned in to the news as two hijacked planes crashed into the Twin Towers. While some fled New York City and others watched in disbelief from out-of-state homes, FDNY first responders headed straight for the World Trade Center.
These individuals were exposed to toxic smoke, debris and dangerous chemicals in the air, causing many to become sick. The number of men and women with 9/11-linked cancers has now hit 3,700. More than 2,000 of the affected individuals are cops and Ground Zero responders.
Responder And Survivor Cancer Statistics
Research from the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program shows that cancer develops more frequently in Ground Zero responders than in any other service member. Most of the illnesses are respiratory diseases and cancers, including thyroid, colon, prostate and blood cancers.
The federal government has tallied up the rising number of 9/11-related illnesses. Those who have developed cancer include 1,100 FDNY members, 2,134 cops and other Ground Zero responders, and 467 citizen survivors such as downtown workers and residents.
Over 2,100 firefighters and Emergency Medical Services personnel have retired on disability with illnesses since 9/11, according to Dr. David Prezant, the FDNY’s chief medical officer.
According to the toll demographics, 109 FDNY responders died from these illnesses, 44 of which died from cancer. But the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program has worked hard to take care of those affected.
“Medical monitoring, early diagnosis and aggressive treatment have been able to reduce the impact that WTC exposure(s) and the resulting illnesses have had on our members’ ability to function in normal life activities and thankfully, on mortality rates.
Due to the physical nature of their jobs, these illnesses have had a tremendous impact on our membership and their families,” Prezant said in a statement.
Coping And A Continued Need For Care
Cancers and illnesses continue to be discovered, it seems that the number of individuals affected by the September 11 attacks will keep rising.
Thomas Riley is a 58-year-old Deputy Chief of the FDNY. He was vacationing at his home in Long Island when the attacks started. He immediately gathered his troops and headed to Ground Zero, where he searched for survivors alongside his team until 3 a.m. Every morning they returned to continue the search, becoming continually exposed to toxic smoke and fumes for months.
In December, family and friends noticed something developing in Riley’s eye. He was diagnosed with a blood cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which created a tumor behind his right eye.
“All day long, you had debris flying in your eyes. You were constantly rinsing your eyes,” Riley told the NY Post.
Riley took a medical leave to receive radiation, which increased the sensitivity of his eye. He can no longer deal with bright light, dust and wind. He always carries eye drops.
In July, Riley and other affected service members gathered to lobby Congress to extend the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund. The fund provides health care compensation for “any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes.”
Riley will need check-ups every six months to make sure that cancer hasn’t returned or spread. He is just one of the thousands still coping with the effects of the 9/11 attacks.
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