San Angelo, Texas— On September 11th, 2001, and the days following, New York first responders were praised and lauded as heroes as they saved lives during the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil.
Now 18 years later they’re being forgotten as thousands of those same people are fighting the aftereffects of 9/11. One of those people is Rosey Velez.
“On September 11th I was a captain with the CRMS, which is an emergency medical service. I went down like everyone else to help. Initially in the beginning there was a call to muster and gather at the station. Two blocks away from home was battalion 49 where a lot of friends worked. I reported there and from there I wound up going downtown to proceed to work at the world trade centers.”
Rosey now lives here in San Angelo. He was at ground zero on that tragic, horrifying day
“We knew there were thousands of people there. We also know there was a fine dust. We know now later that fine dust was the people. It was everything that was literally disintegrated by all the floors pancaking hitting and dispersing. You’re digging through this ash, and a lot of people don’t want to hear this, but you’re digging, and you find an intestine or hand. And you gotta call over someone, now I gotta get port authority or officer and report it because it’s their job to tag stuff. And then you keep digging again.” Says Velez.
There were 343 firefighters who died that day. The survivors were covered in dust, rubble, and the blood of victims including their fallen brothers.
Now thousands of New York firefighters are fighting for health care and assistance from the government as they fight every day to live.
In 2015, a bill was passed to give assistance to those first responders now the 7.4 billion dollars is running out. Rosey says it’s not just a New York problem. There are New York firefighters living all over the country and many of them living right here in the Concho Valley.
“Were here in this community were here in the state of Texas. Not just us but members Texas task force one that are sick this is not a New York thing. This is an America thing. We’ve lost more first responders right now due to September 11th illness than we lost in civilians and first responders that day.”
Rosie is one of those first responders now dealing with the after math nearly two decades later. He says he never dealt with health issues until 9/11.
“I had zero lung issues, asthma nothing like that. Nothing. Then the weeks following 9/11 I found myself taking Albuterol at least once a day to try to clear my lungs so I could breath. Some can say and doctors have said the psychological injuries started from the moment I got there. But there’s no way of gagging where the respiratory stuff came from. It could have happened the first day or the 31st day. And that’s the thing about 9/11 cancers or 9/11 illnesses it’s either it’s slowly eating you away or it devours you and you’re okay one day and gone the next. There’s no way around it.”
Velez suffers from lymphedema, stemming from a physical injury 15 years ago. Over those years he’s has had several close calls. Including one just last year.
“My daughter who’s turning 21 doesn’t show a lot of emotion, I watched her lose it in the hospital when I was half awake half asleep. Screaming daddy please don’t give up. And I think that’s the thing politicians don’t get. They don’t get were family people. The majority of us have families who are suffering. It’s not just us.”
According to a study done by the Journal of American Medical Associates, in the first ten years after 9/11, more than 600 firefighters were diagnosed with some form of cancer. It’s believed to be a result of the air breathed in during the devastation of 9/11. That same study estimates that by 2031 more than 14 thousand fire fighters will be diagnosed with some form of cancer.
|Number of Known and Estimated First Primary Cancer Cases in FDNY WTC-Exposed|
|Cancer Site||Known Cases
Sept. 11, 2001–
Dec 31, 2011
|Age at Diagnosis
Sept. 11, 2001–
Dec. 31, 2011
|Years to Diagnosis
Sept. 11, 2001–
Dec. 31, 2011
Jan. 1, 2012–Dec. 31, 2031
No. (95% CI)
|Any||697||55.81 (9.62)||6.18 (2.85)||2960 (2883-3037)|
|Prostate||290||58.89 (7.64)||6.48 (2.71)||995 (946-1050)|
|Lung||31||63.11 (6.75)||6.72 (2.81)||416 (383-450)|
|Hematologica||79||53.93 (9.89)||6.12 (2.96)||313 (286-341)|
|Colorectal||48||54.35 (8.01)||5.29 (2.97)||305 (278-331)|
|Melanoma||69||52.30 (10.38)||5.99 (2.88)||133 (114-152)|
|Bladder||37||57.82 (11.10)||6.53 (3.10)||230 (206-252)|
|Kidney||30||52.47 (8.70)||5.45 (2.97)||145 (125-165)|
|Thyroid||37||45.88 (9.34)||5.98 (2.81)||63 (50-76)|
|a Includes Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, multiplemyeloma, and other hematopoietic cancers.|
FDNY — Fire Department of the City of New York
WTC — World Trade Center
“It wasn’t safe. That’s the issue, none of that was safe. We went in with regular masks because we were told it was safe to. Now we know we should have been in full hazmat gear because it wasn’t safe out there.” Says Velez.
That’s why they’re now fighting, they’re making sure they’re being heard by law makers to get the help they say they deserve. And they’re not alone.
Comedian and former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart is fighting for them. Recently speaking in front of a committee in an emotional testimony.
That fiery testimony accelerated talks between first responders and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to discuss extending the funding. McConnell says it will be brought to a vote in august.
“When a politician tells you everything is okay and you go do your job and then you find out the guy lied, or in this case the woman lied, and now their life is hanging in the balance, somebody’s gotta take responsibility for that.”
Every September 11th, for the last 18 years people have posted “never forget” in memory of the tragic day, but those first responders like Rosey feel like they’ve been forgotten.
“Why the politicians are doing what they’re doing again I really don’t know. Because this is something that is so simple and so easy. You can’t say well we don’t know how this is affecting people when you have thousands of people dying. It draws up a lot of emotion and a lot of anger and you sit here and listen to what some of these politicians are saying and you think whiskey tango foxtrot.”
Detective who fought for 9/11 compensation funding dies
A former New York City police detective who was a leader in the fight for the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund died Saturday at age 53. Detective Luis Alvarez’s death from cancer was announced by Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea, who tweeted that Alvarez was “an inspiration, a warrior, …”
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