Originally published at The NY Daily News by Thomas Tracy on 7/20/15
It’s no longer just New York’s problem.
Every state in the nation now has someone suffering from cancer or other illnesses related to the 9/11 terror attacks, the Daily News has learned.
Those receiving aid from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund vary from just a handful in states like Wyoming, Utah and Alaska to several dozen in North Carolina, sources said.
The numbers increase drastically as one gets closer to New York. Just under 100 people in Pennsylvania have received aid. Nearly four times that number can be found in New Jersey.
The Empire State still leads the pack. More than 4,000 people in New York State are receiving compensation to treat a laundry list of illnesses related to the terror attacks, sources said.
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is expected on Monday to release a state-by-state breakdown of the numbers.
“We knew this was a national issue right from the beginning,” 9/11 Victims Compensation Board member Sheila Birnbaum told The News.
Many of the sufferers are retired cops and firefighters who moved out of New York. Others are first responders from other states who joined bucket brigades at Ground Zero in the days after the attacks.
Retired NYPD Detective Frank DeMasi, a former Emergency Service Unit cop living in North Carolina who learned that the lining of his esophagus was damaged from breathing in toxins on 9/11, isn’t surprised by how widespread the issue has become.
“When it happened, we saw cops and firefighters helping out from all over,” DeMasi said.
Retired Police Officer Paul Johnson, a former NYPD ESU cop who lives in South Carolina, is slowly dying from pulmonary fibrosis. Johnson’s lung tissue was damaged from the fumes at Ground Zero. The 57-year-old is constantly on oxygen and his body convulses periodically.
“People want to sweep it under the rug, but we’re all dropping dead,” Johnson said.
Sixty NYPD and Port Authority cops were killed when two jumbo jets slammed into the towers of the World Trade Center. By 2012, that death toll was eclipsed by the number of cops who died of 9/11 cancers and illnesses, DeMasi said. The same can be said for FDNY firefighters: 343 died in the 9/11 attacks. Today, more than 1,100 active and retired firefighters have been diagnosed with a 9/11-related cancer, said a department spokesman.
Sufferers began receiving financial assistance with the passing of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2011, which provides health monitoring and health coverage and compensation for illnesses ranging from cancer to asthma tied to toxic air.
As of March 31, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund has provided more than $1 billion in assistance to 10,549 people suffering a 9/11-related illnesses. The bill is set to expire, in phases, starting in October. A House subcommittee is mulling an extension, but House Republicans like Speaker John Boehner are publicly opposed to the bill.