Protecting, helping 9/11 first responders

ALBANY, N.Y (NEWS10) – A memorial stands in honor of those who perished in 9/11 but some even right here in the Capital Region are still fighting for their lives.

Asthma and cancer are just some of the conditions the CDC reports that 9/11 first responders are plagued with today after breathing in dust and fumes from the debris there.

Kevin Terry was part of a group from the Capital Region that headed to the city to help.

“It was just mass chaos and there was still a huge rescue operation going on at that time.”

As he thumbs through photos of the debris, Terry remembers what ground zero was like just hours after the Towers fell.

First, the magnitude of the site and second the air conditions.

“We didn’t know what was in the air there. We didn’t know what the debris contained. We knew we were all breathing smoke.”

They started by using just paper masks and moved onto purifying respirators but the safety concerns they were in the moment.

“You were traversing steel high beams that if you fell off you had anywhere from a 4 or a 10 or a 15-foot drop.”

Today, it’s something else.

Right now, there are about 70,000 responders registered with the World Trade Center Health Program.

As of September of last year, there are more than 6,200 of those responders with cancer and more than 250 who were diagnosed with cancer and have since passed away.

It’s just one of the programs designed to help first responders.

There’s also the Victim Compensation Fund which processes injuries and claims related to 9/11.

As of August, the fund has paid out more than $3 billion and awarded nearly 5,000 claims that include cancer.

For responders like Terry, these health problems have become a daily concern.

“Routinely, we are getting notified of this kind of deaths from these very aggressive types of cancers and respiratory illnesses that people are coming down with.”

It’s something Terry and others from his group get tested for at Mount Sinai in New York City.

He says looking back and now knowing the health risks he wouldn’t have done anything differently.

“If I was in my 20s again like I was then, I’d be first in line to go again.”

If you’re a 9/11 responder and are experiencing health issues click here for information on the VCF program and click here for information on the WTC Health program.

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