New York City lost two more of its bravest to 9/11-related illnesses.
Retired firefighters Paul Deo, Jr. and Richard Jones both died Friday, joining hundreds of other first responders who succumbed to diseases contracted at Ground Zero in the days and weeks after the Twin Towers fell.
”Nearly two decades later, our FDNY family continues to lose remarkable men and women who never wavered in their commitment to protecting life and property in our city,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “Our department will never forget them or the bravery they exuded throughout their careers.”
Deo, 74, and Jones, 63, both spent decades with the department, each collecting accolades along the way.
Deo served 33 years as a firefighter, mostly in Queens at Engines 317 and 289 with a stint in the Bronx at Engine 42. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1990.
Jones spent his entire 20-year-career at Manhattan’s Ladder 25, which lost seven firefighters when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. During the course of his career the FDNY awarded him three “acts of merit,” which are given to service members who go above and beyond the call of duty.
Jones and Deo retired within a month of each other about a year after terrorists crashed hijacked planes into the World Trade Center. They were among tens of thousands of people who worked tirelessly on the debris pile at Ground Zero to find survivors and victims’ remains.
With Friday’s deaths, the FDNY has lost 218 of its members to 9/11-related illnesses — a number that has grown drastically over the last year and threatens to one day exceed the 343 members of the department who were killed at Ground Zero.
Last April, three retired FDNY members died from illnesses they contracted following 9/11 within 48 hours of each other. Three months later, the department reported its 200th member died as a result of inhaling the toxins surrounding the towers after they fell.
A study published last month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that workers exposed to the air at Ground Zero have significantly higher risks of contracting certain types of cancer, including leukemia and prostate cancer.
President Trump in July signed a bill to add $10.2 billion to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, a program that covers health care for the thousands of first responders who contracted life-threatening illnesses from Ground Zero. The additional funding essentially makes the program permanent.
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