A heroic NYPD detective, more than two decades after 9/11, paid the ultimate price for her work amidst the toxic ruins of the World Trade Center.
Barbara Burnette, 58, of Queens, died Dec. 30 after a long and debilitating battle with health issues linked to her 23 daunting days in the burning Ground Zero rubble following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack that toppled the Twin Towers.
The former college basketball player developed lung cancer that forced her NYPD retirement in 2006 and wound up in a wheelchair during her courageous post-9/11 fight for life.
Burnette, who also suffered from hypertension and PTSD related to her time in Lower Manhattan, later became an ardent health care advocate for 9/11 first responders.
“I will never forget Barbara,” said Detectives’ Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo. “And I won’t forget the work and sacrifice she made on that day and throughout a career cut short by the attack on this country.”
The veteran cop was working in Brooklyn’s 73rd Precinct gang unit on 9/11, and traveled with several fellow officers by boat from Sunset Park to the downtown Manhattan site — arriving just as the 110-story buildings toppled.
Burnette spent the next 12 hours working in the toxic air and helped evacuate a pregnant woman and several other people via their boat from the site back to Brooklyn.
She recalled returning to Ground Zero only hours later the next day at 4 a.m. and then for weeks after, with Burnette later recounting how she was constantly spitting the toxic soot from her mouth and throat while working without a protective mask.
Burnette became an advocate for federal aid to the first responders stricken with an assortment of medical issues after 9/11. She visited Washington in 2015, traveling between Congressional offices in her wheelchair, to help convince the politicians to extend 9/11-related health care coverage with the Zadroga Act.
Her last public appearance came just before the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks this past September, with Burnette wearing an oxygen mask in her wheelchair.
She is survived by her husband and fellow NYPD member Lee, along with their three children.
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