Like most other people throughout the country, people in the Pittsburgh area will never forget the incredible heroism of hundreds of first responders on that fateful day of 9/11. New York City firefighter Raymond J. Pfeifer was not working on that beautiful autumn Tuesday morning; he was enjoying a round of golf with fellow firefighters. But when he learned of the plane crash, they immediately ended their round and headed right for ground zero.
Pfeifer was able to avoid the two towers crashing down, and narrowly escaped the subsequent falling of
World Trade Center Building 7. He spent the rest of the subsequent days amid the cloud of toxic dust and smoke searching for victims. Even as the dust was settling in the months that followed, Pfeifer worked at the site, working to clean debris and searching for remains. He often never returned home, opting to sleep in the firehouse or in his truck before heading back out to ground zero the next day. He did not know it at the time, but he would also become a victim. A victim of cancer.
In 2009, he went to the doctor to look at a pain he had in his left leg. It turned out to be a baseball sized tumor, that would lead to a broken hip and Stage 4 cancer of the kidney. He subsequently had multiple procedures including knee, femur and hip replacements and suffered a heart attack due to his weakened condition following chemotherapy. Yet he endured, and fought politicians for years to try to get support and health benefits for 9/11 first responders. Last week, however, his fight was over when he died from his illnesses due to his time at the 9/11 site. He was 59.
The sad story of Raymond J. Pfeifer will ultimately be remembered as a fight to protect the well-being and future of first responders who suffered on 9/11, but also should serve as a reminder to workers throughout the United States as to the potential dangers of an unsafe working environment. Such toxic environments can lead to workplace injuries and illnesses or even a workplace death.
Source: New York Times, “Raymond J. Pfeifer, 9/11 Firefighter Who Sought Care for Survivors, Dies at 59,” By Sam Roberts, May 30, 2017