9/11 benefits: A first responder speaks out

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – We are getting more reaction to new legislation signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo that’s meant to help financially strapped 9/11 first responders.

Kathy Shaw was one of those first responders running in while everyone was trying to get out. She’s hoping this new legislation will help her and others who have been diagnosed with 9/11 related illnesses.

“That’s me getting an assignment from one of my team leaders.”

Shaw points to the pictures that take her back to a place that part of her wouldn’t mind forgetting.

“They would take you to the top and then drop you down to find any remnants of people.”

The album is a photographic document of the work Shaw and her fellow team members with the New York State Urban Search and Rescue Team performed at ground zero starting on that fateful day.

“[It was disappointing to not make a rescue. That’s part of the problem with all of us is that we felt like there’s a part of us that feels like we failed. There are some of us who feel like I sent my other guys into this pile and now they’re sick.”

Sick from days and weeks spent digging in a thick fog of toxic dust.

Shaw was diagnosed in 2003 with asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and PTSD.

She and many other first 9/11 first responders are receiving free medical treatment in New York City. However, she lives in Malta and travel and the hotel expenses and time off from work are not covered.

“I’ve burned up all my sick time and all my vacation time.”

That may have changed with Gov. Cuomo’s signature on legislation expanding unlimited sick leave benefits for public sector employees who became sick as a result of the work they did during and after 9/11.

“Even if it doesn’t cover me it will cover some of my teammates. It’s going to cover some of those people.”

Remarkably, Shaw says she would do it all over again. She left the team a few years ago.

She says the work continues for her former fellow team members who are on the ground in Florida.

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