The number of New York City Fire Department workers who died from World Trade Center-related illnesses reached a grim milestone over the weekend, matching the number of first responders who died on Sept. 11, 2001, a report said. department official.
FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh announced the deaths of two fire department workers, EMT Hilda Vannata and retired firefighter Robert Fulco, as a result of their time working on “rescue and recovery at the World Trade Center,” according to a report. statement published in Xformerly Twitter.
Vannata died on September 20 after a battle with cancer and Fulco died on September 23 of pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic lung disease. His deaths brought the number of FDNY first responders who died from 9/11-related illnesses to 343, the same number of FDNY workers who died that day at Ground Zero, according to the department.
“We have known for a long time that this day would come, but its reality is equally astonishing,” Kavanagh said in his statement, calling it “a somber and remarkable milestone.”
“Our hearts are broken for the families of these members and for all who love them,” he added.
First Responders Face Elevated Cancer Risk, Research Shows
On the day of the attacks, thousands of first responders rushed to the burning towers after they were hit by commercial airliners hijacked by terrorists. When the towers collapsed, thousands of people died.
In the following months, some 91,000 people helped with the cleanup efforts, exposing themselves to toxic fumes, smoke and chemicals. according to New York City.
A study published last year in the Magazine of the National Cancer Institute found an elevated risk of cancer among 69,102 rescue and recovery workers who responded to the World Trade Center, including police officers and firefighters. The most common forms of cancer identified were melanoma, leukemia, thyroid, tonsil, and prostate cancer.
In his statement, Kavanagh said 11,000 FDNY first responders suffer from illnesses related to the World Trade Center, including 3,500 who have been diagnosed with cancer.
“Our commitment to their service and sacrifice,” he said, “must remain as unwavering for the next two decades as it has been for the last two.”
“Everyone loved him”
Even though his health was rapidly declining, Robert Fulco wanted to do it all. The former New York City firefighter, who cooked for his entire team, wanted to go to all the New York Rangers games, play with his grandchildren and cook big dinners, a tradition for which he was well known in his neighborhood of Brooklyn.
“He always tried to help out and throw great parties, even when he wasn’t in good shape,” Kristine Fulco, one of his daughters, told USA TODAY. “That’s the kind of person my father was.”
In the late 2000s, Robert Fulco began to feel the effects of his time at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and the weeks he spent in cleanup and recovery efforts. But over the past four years, he deteriorated rapidly following his diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis, a serious lung disease.
On Saturday he died at home, two weeks before his 50th wedding anniversary. She was 73 years old.
Robert Fulco was enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides free medical treatment to first responders and others directly affected by the attacks. On the program, he received “world-class” care from doctors he saw every month for years, his daughter said.
“We were with him for 22 years after (9/11) and a lot of people didn’t even get that far,” Kristine Fulco said. “We are really grateful to have been able to spend time with him and enjoy it to the fullest.”
“A lot of people are going to miss him. Everyone loved him in the neighborhood,” Kristine Fulco said. “What he gave to me and my sister is something I aspire to give to my children… that unconditional love.”
EMS worker who died of cancer was the ‘life of the party’
Vannata died of pancreatic cancer she developed after volunteering in the 9/11 recovery effort. according to his obituary. She was 67 years old.
Born in Puerto Rico, she moved to New York as a child with her parents and four siblings. She eventually joined the FDNY as a paramedic, where she met her husband, John, a New York police officer who would later become a sergeant.
In 1997 they married, and four years later, both volunteered to help with Ground Zero recovery efforts, according to the obituary.
“Everyone knew her as a warm and caring person, who always went out of her way to help anyone in need,” the obituary states. “And anyone who knew her loved her.”
“Many have said that Hilda was ‘the life of the party’: a beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, colleague and friend,” the obituary says, adding, “She will always be missed.”
Federal officials push for more funding for first responders affected by 9/11
At the end of July, the The US Senate passed a bipartisan amendment to fill some of the funding gaps in the World Trade Center Health Program.
In 2011, Congress established the program, which covers lifetime medical care for the 120,000 exposed first responders and survivors in all fifty states.
How many people died on September 11?
The September 11 attacks left 2,977 dead in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, according to the September 11 Memorial Museum. That total includes the 2,753 who died after the planes hit the Twin Towers184 people in the Pentagon and 40 people who died when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.
The 19 kidnappers from the Islamic extremist group Al Qaeda were also killed.
Contributing: Clare Mulroy