NEW YORK - More than two decades after the September 11 attacks, the number of FDNY first responders who have died from 9/11-related illnesses has reached 343, equaling the number of FDNY members who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks.
"In just the last 2 weeks since the 22nd Anniversary of September 11, 2001, we have lost another 2 FDNY members," said Andrew Ansbro, the President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
The Uniformed Firefighters Association, Uniformed FIre Officers Association, and other firefighters came together to announce the loss of FDNY/EMT Hilda Vannata, and retired FDNY firefighter Robert Fulco. They are the 342nd and 343rd members to die after the terror attacks from 9/11 illnesses.
"With these deaths, we have reached a somber, remarkable milestone. We have now suffered the same number of deaths post September 11th as we experienced that day when the north and south towers fell. Our hearts break for the families of these members, and all who loved them," said FDNY Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh in a statement.
Firefighters The firefighters also issued a call to action to keep the World Trade Center Health Program fully funded. Otherwise, they say the consequences would be dire.
"You do not have the staffing that you need to make timely appointments for each first responder to get the treatments that they need. If first responders are not properly monitored, we're not catching the diseases early enough, that could be the difference between life and death," said Thomas J. McManus of the Sullivan Papain Law Firm, which represents the firefighters.
The UFA and UFOA say like the growing number of first responders contracting deadly 9/11 illnesses, the fight for adequate funding to get them the health care they need is an ongoing concern.
"The way the bill was structured, we have to continually go back for funding. The World Trade Health Program estimates their future funding need, and we have to make a push in Congress to get that funding need," Ansbro said.