The FDNY announced that three retired firefighters who helped at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks passed away on Monday. Firefighter Daniel Heglund, Lt. Howard Bischoff and firefighter Robert Leaver all died from cancers related to the WTC cleanup.
Leaver's widow Rosario told the Daily News, "Even after he was first diagnosed with leukemia in 2003, he never wanted to be called a 9/11 victim. He would say, ‘The innocent people in the towers were the victims. Don't ever call me a victim. I was a first responder.' " Heglund died of bone cancer and Bischoff had colon cancer.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said it was "a painful reminder that 13 years later we continue to pay a terrible price for the department's heroic efforts." According to the News, "The deaths raise the tragic toll to 92 firefighters who have succumbed to illnesses stemming from sifting through the rubble of the toppled towers in the desperate search to recover bodies. The FDNY lost 343 firefighters on" September 11.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand issued a statement:
“My heart is with the families and friends of these three heroic men. The bravery, courage and dedication that Lt. Howard Bischoff, Robert Leaver and Daniel Heglund showed at Ground Zero during the recovery and cleanup efforts personify the best of who we are as Americans.
"While we honor these men, and mourn their loss, it is a stark reminder that 13 years later, the health effects of 9/11 are far from over, and will be with us for many years to come. Tragically, over 150 of our finest and bravest have been lost since 9/11 due to illnesses obtained at Ground Zero. More than 2,900 people have been diagnosed with cancers caused or made worse by the aftermath of the attacks, and approximately 1,350 FDNY and NYPD members are facing serious 9/11-related illnesses and have had to leave their jobs. Currently, the 9/11 Health program delivers treatment and medical care to nearly 30,000 responders and survivors who are sick literally all across the country.
"Our country has a moral responsibility to continue to stand by these men and women and their families over the coming decades as these illnesses continue to manifest themselves."
Last week, Gillibrand and other lawmakers are introduced the James Zadroga Reauthorization Act, which would give medical treatment and compensation to first responders exposed to the Ground Zero toxins after 9/11. The original act is going to expire next year.