NYC firefighters dead from 9/11 related illnesses surpasses 300 as World Trade health fund sits at $3B deficit

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The number of New York City firefighters who died from 9/11 related illness in the two decades since terrorists flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center has surpassed 300.  

The New York City Fire Department’s Uniformed Firefighters Association announced the deaths of three additional firefighters who responded to Ground Zero over this weekend. 

Chief Joseph A. McKie of Battalion 41 succumbed to a “World Trade Center-related illness” on Sunday, according to the report. McKie, who served the FDNY for 31 years, is survived by his wife Eileen and four children. 

Retired firefighter Gregg E. Lawrence of Engine Company 308 also succumbed to a “World Trade Center-related illness” on Saturday. Lawrence, who served the FDNY for 23 years, is survived by his wife Jennifer and three daughters. 

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From left to right, firefighters William M. Hughes, Gregg E. Lawrence and Joseph A. McKie died from 9/11 related illnesses over the past few days. 

From left to right, firefighters William M. Hughes, Gregg E. Lawrence and Joseph A. McKie died from 9/11 related illnesses over the past few days.  (FDNY UFA)

The 57-year-old had been diagnosed with rectal cancer in March 2021, but the cancer metastasized and spread to his bones and liver, the New York Daily News reported. 

His daughter, Ashley Lawrence, described him to the newspaper as “really the best father that anyone could ever imagine.” “Unreal,” she said of the number of FDNY members lost to 9/11-related illnesses. “Devastated … Really heartbroken. It doesn’t even feel real.”

The third death recently announced by the union was that of firefighter William M. Hughes, of Ladder 123, who succumbed to his World Trade Center-related illness on Friday. Hughes is survived by his wife Sheryl and several extended family and friends, according to FDNY UFA. 

On Sept. 14, 2022, Acting FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh added the names of 37 FDNY members who have died of illnesses related to their work in the WTC rescue and recovery efforts to the World Trade Center Memorial Wall at FDNY Headquarters in Brooklyn.

On Sept. 14, 2022, Acting FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh added the names of 37 FDNY members who have died of illnesses related to their work in the WTC rescue and recovery efforts to the World Trade Center Memorial Wall at FDNY Headquarters in Brooklyn. (FDNY)

This comes as the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides medical monitoring and treatment of WTC-related health conditions for 9/11 responders and survivors, is reportedly running on a $3 billion deficit. 

Last week, a spokesperson for Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told the Daily News that he is “working side-by-side with first responder unions, building trades and other worker advocates to secure the money needed to fully fund the program for all future participants and will look to pass it at the earliest opportunity.”

The FDNY lost 343 members 21 years ago from the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, attends a ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial Museum in Manhattan on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, the 21st anniversary of the terrorist attacks. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, attends a ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial Museum in Manhattan on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, the 21st anniversary of the terrorist attacks.  (Bonnie Cash/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Sept. 13, the department announced that the names of 37 members who died of illnesses related to their work in the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center would be added to the FDNY World Trade Center Memorial Wall at an outdoor ceremony in Brooklyn. At the time of the announcement, 299 FDNY members had died of World Trade Center-related illnesses. 

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“Twenty-one years ago, we lost 343 brave members. Sadly, our losses did not end that day. Back then, we made a solemn promise to never forget, and we make that same promise today, to never forget the growing list of heroes who have given their lives to illnesses related to their work in rescue and recovery at the World Trade Center site,” Acting Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said on Sept. 13. “We honor our promise to never forget by including their names on our World Trade Center memorial wall.”

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