WABC - June 10, 2018by Amy Freeze
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Ray Pfeifer of the FDNY spent decades as a firefighter, then six months at the World Trade Center. He was diagnosed with a 9/11 related cancer.
He spent the last years of his life ensuring care for those affected by 9/11 illnesses.
Now, a year after his death, a plaque hangs in his firehouse just blocks from the Eyewitness News studios to recognize his ultimate sacrifice.
He was a first responder who lived to help other first responders.
Ray did not die on 9/11, but everyone at Engine 40, Ladder 35 who was on the job that day did. Some say Ray's purpose was different.
"177 members of this department now have been buried from 9/11 related illnesses in addition to the 343 we lost on that day," said FDNY Chief James Leonard.
Now a plaque memorializes his work: decades as a firefighter, then working to recover those lost. "Despite his illness he would travel to DC and walk the halls of Congress, demanding that our country keep its promise to care for those who never wavered on their oaths on September 11," said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
When Ray got sick, he realized there would be others with 9/11 related illnesses. Even wheelchair bound, his new battle took him to the halls of Congress, fighting for health coverage.
He led the charge for the Zadroga act which ensures 75,000 people suffering from 9/11 exposure get health coverage through 2090.
"Your husband made the ultimate sacrifice for this department, for this city and this country and we will be forever grateful for that," Leonard said to Ray's widow.
His family, moved by the comments, also spoke about the new foundation to continue his legacy, which funds quality of life needs for those who gave all. "It's an honor that they're continuing his legacy and raising money with the foundation, they're working so hard, helping all the other 9/11 responders," said Ray's widow Caryn Pfeifer.
"It's been amazing, they've been giving equipment to sick firefighters and they've been great with the family and everything," said Ray's son Terence.
The foundation is run by unpaid first responders - all the money raised as a tribute to Never Forget.
According to the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program, there are over 2,000 active and retired firefighters currently battling 9/11 cancers and thousands have been diagnosed with other illnesses.
The act also covers civilians and anyone in need of care, even beyond fire, police and EMS. The act does not expire until 2090. Ray Pfeifer was in the firehouse that covers our studios here at WABC-TV. Monday will be the Foundation's first golf classic fundraiser.