9/11 Community Mourns Death of Ray Pfeifer of WTC-Related Cancer. Ray Pfeifer, a 27-year FDNY veteran and 9/11 advocate who spent roughly 8 months sifting through the debris at Ground Zero, has died of cancer related to toxic dust exposure at the World Trade Center (WTC). After becoming ill, the 59-year-old retired firefighter actively fought for the rights of 9/11 responders and survivors, making over a dozen trips to Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress for benefits.
Parker Waichman LLP is a national personal injury law firm that has fought for the rights of 9/11 responders and survivors since the beginning. The firm continues to advocate for 9/11 heroes.
Mr. Pfeifer was instrumental in lobbying Congress to reauthorize the Zadroga Act, which provides medical benefits and compensation to sick and injured 9/11 responders and survivors. Congress reauthorized the bill in late 2015. Pfeifer’s efforts were a key part of that victory.
“Ray Pfeifer was a true fighter who bravely battled fires as a New York City Firefighter and fought tirelessly for all first responders who — like him — suffered from World Trade Center related illness,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro, according to Newsday. “The entire FDNY family deeply mourns his loss.”
Newsday interviewed Pfeifer in 2012. He told them at the time, “It never was about me. I was one of many thousands that worked on the pile. . . . We’re still waiting to prove that’s where my cancer comes from? . . . I would like to see the government step up and do the right thing so we don’t have to fundraise for our treatments.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio honored Pfeifer in a tweet, stating “With the death of Ray Pfeifer, New York City has lost a hero and an inspiration. My prayers are with his family and all of the FDNY.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer also mourned his passing, tweeting “You meet very few truly great men in your life. Ray was one of them.”
According to Newsday, Pfeifer was a Levittown native. In addition to working for the FDNY he also served as a volunteer firefighter in East Meadow. Nine years after 9/11, he was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer. The cancer spread into his bones.
Treatment involved years of chemotherapy and radiation. Pfeifer underwent an amputation and used a wheelchair due to his failing health. Despite the obstacles, he continued to make trips to Washington to persuade lawmakers to pass the Zadroga Act.
John Feal, founder of the 9/11 advocacy organization FealFood Foundation, worked with Pfeifer and said he was the “epitome of dignity and class”.
“Ray always said he was the poster child for this whole thing,” Feal said. “I don’t think Ray was the poster child for this. Ray was the backbone . . . Ray never gave himself enough credit.”
Pfeifer has been honored for his efforts and advocacy work. He was awarded keys to New York City and Nassau County, among other things. Despite the accolades, however, he remained humble. “All I did was go down there and fight the politicians who wanted to fight us,” he told Newsday in 2016.
The Zadroga Act and Health Conditions Related to 9/11
The Zadroga Act provides funding to the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides medical treatment and monitoring, and the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which provides compensation. The legislation was initially signed into law in 2011 and reauthorized in 2015.
Renewal provides $3.5 billion to fund the WTC Health program for another 75 years to 2090. Many responders, survivors, and 9/11 advocates, including Parker Waichman, fought for Zadroga Act reauthorization. The firm continues to proudly fight for the rights of 9/11 responders and survivors.
Numerous studies have shown that exposure to the toxic dust during 9/11 is associated with many serious health conditions. Experts now know that the dust contained a number of hazardous substances, including asbestos; pulverized cement; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); benzene; dioxin; glass fibers; gypsum; jet fuel; heavy metals, including lead and other chemicals. 9/11 exposure has been linked to more than 90 health conditions, including over 60 types of cancer. Studies continue to link 9/11 exposure to various health problems.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that more people are enrolling in the WTC Health Program, suggesting that the number of people with 9/11-related conditions is increasing. CDC data shows that 2,500 people newly enrolled into the WTC Health Program during the 1-year period ending June 30, 2016. More than 75,000 people around the country are being monitored or treated through the program, including the new enrollees. Most people in the program are rescue and recovery workers, who had the greatest exposure.
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