Mayor Sees Link As 3 More Ground Zero First-Responders Die

Chief Leader - October 20, 2009

by ARI PAUL

Two Police Officers and a Firefighter who worked in the rescue and recovery effort at Ground Zero died of cancer this month, just before Police and Fire Department Memorials were held to honor their members who died in the last year.

Police Officers Cory Diaz and Robert Grossman died of cancer Oct. 7 and 9 respectively, and Firefighter Richard Mannetta passed away the next day.

While one recent study showed that 9/11 responders are developing cancers at younger ages than in the general population, it did not determine that 9/11 exposure was directly involved. However, after the deaths, Mayor Bloomberg said he believed that there was a link and renewed his support for the James Zadroga Act, a bill in Congress that would secure permanent funding for medical monitoring and treatment for residents and 9/11 responders, according to the Daily News.

'We've Known It for Years'

"Finally, the Mayor is beginning to think what we responders have known for years: exposure to toxins while in the course of performing our duties at the WTC site made us ill, and is causing many of us to die prematurely," Emergency Medical Service Retirees Association President Marianne Pizzitola said in an e-mail. "Responders have not died due to cancers like this in our history of city service. Someone needs to wake up and start helping us."

She continued, "While I commend the Mayor for supporting the Zadroga Act, he also needs to pay attention right here at home to our pension system and begin to answer questions about why 9/11 responders like Steven Hess, a former [Emergency Medical Technician] disabled from his work at WTC, has been refused a pension and been denied access by NYCERS to apply again to get his wellearned benefits. There are several people like him that have fallen through the loophole, and if the Mayor wants to make a difference he should start right here at home. Steven and those like him need benefits now that he can help provide without an act of Congress."

Several union officials believed that the U.S. House of Representatives would vote on the bill this month, but most legislation has been sidelined as a result of the on-going debate on national health-care reform.