3 from FDNY who worked at ground zero die in 1 day

NEW YORK (AP) — Three retired firefighters who worked at ground zero have died on the same day from cancer, an illness that many fear might be connected to toxic World Trade Center dust released on Sept. 11, fire officials said Thursday.

Lt. Howard Bischoff, 58, and firefighters Robert Leaver, 56, and Daniel Heglund, 58, died within hours of one another Monday.

Their deaths are “a painful reminder that 13 years later we continue to pay a terrible price for the department’s heroic efforts,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a statement.

Thousands of people who aided in the rescue and recovery effort were diagnosed with respiratory ailments and other health problems in the years after the attacks. Cancer, though, remains the biggest fear for people exposed to the gritty soot at the site.

Hundreds of first responders have gotten cancer in the 13 years since the attacks, but doctors and researchers are still uncertain whether there is any link between those illnesses and 9/11. Cancer is the leading cause of death for Americans in their mid-40s to mid-60s, making it hard to tell which deaths, if any, might be related. Most medical studies have not found evidence of a substantial surge in cancer rates, though researchers have spotted some worrisome trends.

Congress has set aside $2.78 billion to compensate people with illnesses that might be related to the attacks. Administrators of the fund have included the most common types of cancer as qualifying illnesses.

“On that day when first responders arrived, the air was toxic and remained toxic for many months afterward,” said Jake Lemonda, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

The Fire Department of New York lost 343 firefighters on 9/11. The department maintains a memorial to 89 other firefighters it believes died of illnesses. That tally doesn’t yet include Bischoff, Leaver or Heglund.

Their deaths come as advocates urge Congress to reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides medical treatment and compensation to those who got sick from exposure to toxic air after Sept. 11.

Fire officials knew the three were sick, said Lemonda, whose union represents fire lieutenants, captains, battalion chiefs, deputy chiefs, medical officers and supervising fire marshals in the FDNY. One had leukemia, one had esophageal cancer and the third had colon cancer.

Funerals for Leaver and Heglund were scheduled for Friday. The service for Leaver will be held at Francis of Assisi Church in West Nyack at 10 a.m. Heglund’s funeral will be at the Centerport Volunteer Firehouse at 10:30 a.m.

A funeral for Bischoff will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Aloysius Church in Jackson, New Jersey.

3 from FDNY who worked at ground zero die in 1 day.

10 secrets about firefighters revealed

By Will Wyatt


Never underestimate the general public’s ability to not understand firefighters and the jobs they perform. Where they get their ideas is a mystery. Maybe they are drawn from too much television, or maybe they are hatched simply from thin air.

But fear their ignorance no longer. Below are the 10 most important things the public needs to know about firefighters. Feel free to print this list and distribute it door-to-door and hand it out when arriving on scene.

https://i2.wp.com/fire.pgpic.com/1.giff A fire is the ultimate double-edged sword. Nobody on any fire department anywhere wants to see a family lose everything they have, or worse, suffer and injury or death. However, we all like going to fires; I can clean and listen to people argue at home.

https://i1.wp.com/fire.pgpic.com/2.giff When we enter a home for a medical emergency and a well-meaning person runs up to greet us and inform us they are a vascular surgeon, nurse or some other medical genius, we are not impressed. In fact, we wonder why we are there in the first place with such advanced medical skills already on the scene.

https://i0.wp.com/fire.pgpic.com/3.giff An apartment dweller doesn’t pay my salary, or even a homeowner for that matter. Their contribution to a municipal budget is miniscule in the grand scheme of things. Kind of like urinating in the ocean. But we do appreciate your contribution.

https://i0.wp.com/fire.pgpic.com/4.giff No, you don’t have to go to a certain hospital across town for a minor ailment. Your doctor who works at that hospital will not be there at 2 a.m. and is certainly not coming down to look at your stubbed toe. We are not passing three hospitals with competent physicians and nurses to take you to your favorite hospital.

https://i1.wp.com/fire.pgpic.com/5.giff We eat. All firefighters take in all of the major food groups (and a few others also) to convert into sugars, proteins and other nutrients that our bodies need to function. We are on duty for 24 hours, sometimes longer, and need sustenance. I smile when people comment on us being at the store. I can’t think of a job that you don’t get a lunch break. Prisoners are fed. Astronauts eat out of toothpaste tubes in space. We do not get a guaranteed meal break.

https://i2.wp.com/fire.pgpic.com/6.giff Defibrillation will not revive a poor soul who has been dead for several hours or days. If a person has lividity and there is mail stacked on top of mail in the mailbox, an electrical charge will not help. I remember finding a deceased male in a house and hearing a family member in the next room on the phone say, “They said he has been down several hours and is stiff but they are going to shock him.” No we aren’t!

https://i0.wp.com/fire.pgpic.com/7.giff Despite how we are portrayed on television and in the movies, the majority of us are not dysfunctional, manically depressed, womanizing alcoholics. In fact, I can readily name several coworkers who have been married longer than I have been alive and even have successful children. Even better (brace your self!), I know a few who don’t drink.

https://i1.wp.com/fire.pgpic.com/8.giff When we are in the middle of the living room floor doing chest compressions and artificial respirations on a loved one, the above actions indicate he has no heartbeat nor is he breathing. So, they are for all practical purposes dead. When a family member taps a responder on the shoulder and whispers, “How is dad?” it’s an awkward question.

https://i0.wp.com/fire.pgpic.com/9.giff It’s nice when people come up to us in public and thank us for what we do and how we keep them safe. I just smile because I want to ask them if they voted for politicians who want to slash pensions and benefits.

https://i2.wp.com/fire.pgpic.com/10.giff Yes, the fire truck carries water. No, the tank on my back is not an oxygen tank. It is compressed room air, which has a concentration of oxygen in it. If we wore an oxygen tank on my back, which is by the way an oxidizer, and a leak developed we might fly through the air like a cross between Mary Poppins and ET.

10 secrets about firefighters revealed.