9/11-related illnesses still claim first responders’ lives 16 years after their heroic efforts

While September 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania claimed thousands of lives that fateful day, many first responders are still passing away from illnesses they developed during their work following the tragedies.

As of June 30, 2017, 5,807 first responders with 9/11-related cancer had enrolled in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s World Trade Center Health Program. Tens of thousands more have enrolled in the program for other conditions including aerodigestive, musculoskeletal and mental health issues. 

In the 16 years, nearly 150 firefighters and fire officers have succumbed to their related illnesses. Last week, the Fire Department of New York honored 32 of its fallen officers by adding their names to World Trade Center Memorial Wall.

RELATED: 16 most iconic images from September 11, 2001, and aftermath

16 most iconic images from September 11, 2001 and aftermath
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16 most iconic images from September 11, 2001 and aftermath
Content in this photo gallery may be difficult for some to see -- viewer discretion is advised. 

This September 11, 2001 file photo shows US President George W. Bush interrupted by his Chief of Staff Andrew Card(L) shortly after news of the New York City airplane crashes was available in Sarasota, Florida.

(Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 (L) flies toward the World Trade Center twin towers shortly before slamming into the south tower as the north tower burns following an earlier attack by a hijacked airliner in New York City September 11, 2001. The stunning aerial assaults on the huge commercial complex where more than 40,000 people worked on an ordinary day were part of a coordinated attack aimed at the nation's financial heart. They destroyed one of America's most dramatic symbols of power and financial strength and left New York reeling. (REUTERS/Sean Adair)

The second tower of the World Trade Center explodes into flames after being hit by a airplane, New York September 11, 2001 with the Brooklyn bridge in the foreground. Both towers of the complex collapsed after being hit by hijacked planes.

(REUTERS/Sara K. Schwittek)

Photo shows the point of impact where a plane crashed into the North tower of the World Trade Center in New York City early September 11, 2001. Three hijacked planes crashed into major U.S. landmarks on Tuesday, destroying both of New York's mighty twin towers and plunging the Pentagon in Washington into flames, in an unprecedented assault on key symbols of U.S. military and financial power.

(Jeff Christensen / Reuters)

This 11 September 2001 file photo shows Marcy Borders covered in dust as she takes refuge in an office building after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed in New York. Borders was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area.

(Photo credit STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

A true-color image taken by the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) aboard the Landsat 7 satellite on September 12, 2001 shows New York City and the smoldering World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 attacks in this handout photo courtesy of NASA. The image was captured at roughly 11:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time.


A person falls to their death from the World Trade Center after two planes hit the Twin Towers September 11, 2001 in New York City.

(Photo by Jose Jimenez/Primera Hora/Getty Images)

The south tower of the World Trade Center collapses September 11, 2001 in New York City.

(Thomas Nilsson/ Getty Images)

This 11 September 2001 file photo shows pedestrians running from the scene as one of the World Trade Center towers collapses in New York City following a terrorist plane crash on the twin towers.

(DOUG KANTER/AFP/Getty Images)

The remaining tower of New York's World Trade Center, Tower 2, dissolves in a cloud of dust and debris about a half hour after the first twin tower collapsed September 11, 2001. Each of the towers were hit by hijacked airliners in one of numerous acts of terrorism directed at the United States September 11, 2001. The pictures were made from across the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine RFS
A group of firefighters walk amid rubble near the base of the destroyed South World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. In the worst terror attack on the U.S. mainland in modern history, two hijacked planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York - where about 40,000 people work - and a third plane hit the Pentagon, across the Potomac river from Washington. REUTERS/Peter Morgan JC/jp

Rescue workers carry fatally injured New York City Fire Depatment Chaplain, Father Mychal Judge, from one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, early September 11, 2001. Both towers were hit by planes crashing into the buildings and collapsed a short time later.

(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

The damaged area of the Pentagon building, where a hijacked commercial jetliner slammed into it September 11, 2001, is seen in this file photo with the U.S. Capitol Building in the background, at sunrise on September 16, 2001.

(REUTERS/Larry Downing)

A New York City fireman calls for more rescue workers to make their way into the rubble of the World Trade Center September 15, 2001.

(REUTERS/Handout/U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres)

Firefighters raise a U.S. flag at the site of the World Trade Center after two hijacked commercial airliners were flown into the buildings September 11, 2001 in New York.

(Photo by 2001 The Record (Bergen Co. NJ)/Getty Images)

Members of the New York Fire and Police Departments salute as a truck carrying the last steel column of the World Trade Center moves up West Street from inside of the World Trade Center site May 30, 2002 as the recovery effort at Ground Zero officially ends in New York.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


RELATED: Never-before-seen FBI photos are a haunting reminder of the Sept. 11 Pentagon attack

Just this year alone, a number of 9/11 first responders have added to the event’s death toll. Rare would like to share the stories of just a few of the brave responders who have lost their lives since the attacks:

Raymond and Robert Alexander

The father and son were, respectively, a New York City firefighter and a New York City Police Department officer who both had the day off on Sept. 11, 2001. When the terror attacks on the Twin Towers occurred, the pair sprang into action and headed to Lower Manhattan, where they searched through ruble and debris for days. In November of last year, Raymond, 76, passed away after spending 13 years battling more than seven types of cancer. His family believes his cancers were linked to his 9/11 service. Last month, Robert tragically followed his father, passing away of brain cancer, which his family believes was also related to exposure to toxins at Ground Zero. Raymond and Robert’s deaths marked the first time since that fateful day that the attacks “have claimed the lives of two generations in a single family,” according to Gerard Fitzgerald, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

Ray Pfeifer

Pfeiffer, 59, was a retired New York City firefighter who spent eight months scouring through the rubble at the World Trade Centers site following the terrorist attacks. He contracted cancer because of his work and, after an eight-year battle with the disease, passed away in May after earning a key to New York City last year. Before his death, he fought to get a law passed that would guarantee medical care for 9/11 first responders.

RELATED: “Let’s Roll” — how a catchphrase became a rallying cry for patriotic bravery

Robert Newman

After 40 years as a New York City firefighter, Newman, a Vietnam veteran, retired in 2005, four years after 9/11. He spent several months after the attacks involved with rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero, and he later developed cancer after being exposed to toxic dust. He was forced to retire due to related health problems and passed away in February 2017, at the age of 70.

Brian J. Masterson

Retired New York City firefighter Masterson, 61, passed away in January of this year after battling esophageal cancer for two years. The father of three was on the scene when the 9/11 terror attacks occurred and spent several months afterward working on the ground at the attack site. His family believes his cancer was “a direct result of working so many days at the site of the Twin Towers” and had been “constantly growing” since that day. He had retired in 2015 after nearly 20 years of service.

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