NEW YORK – Three New York City Fire Department members died in the past week from 9/11-related illnesses, pushing the death toll for city firefighters who toiled at ground zero in the weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks to over 300.
The Fire Department lost 343 members who responded to the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Firefighter Gregg Lawrence, 57, died Saturday after he was diagnosed with rectal cancer in March 2021. The cancer metastasized and spread to his bones and his liver.
“We just keep repeating ourselves,” said his daughter, Ashley Lawrence. “He was just really the best father that anyone could ever imagine. Anyone who knows him, no one has a mean thing to say about him. Always happy, smiling, the first person to crack a joke.”
Lawrence – who was assigned to Battalion 51 in South Ozone Park, Queens – retired in March after serving nearly 24 years.
He was transferred to the engine in June 2001 and responded to the World Trader Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
“(We’re) devastated,” said Ashley Lawrence. “Really heartbroken. It doesn’t even feel real.”
Lawrence leaves behind three daughters and his wife, Jennifer.
Also lost this week were Battalion Chief Joseph McKie and firefighter William Hughes.
McKie, of Battalion 41 in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, died Sunday. He served 31 years in the fire department before he retired in April 2019. In September 2001, he was a lieutenant at Engine 284 in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.
He is survived by his four children and wife Eileen.
Hughes retired in 2005 after serving 22 years as a firefighter. At the time of his retirement, he was stationed at Ladder 123 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
He died on Friday and is survived by his wife, Sheryl.
The World Trade Center Health Program, which ensures medical care for 9/11 first responders and survivors, faces a $3 billion deficit.
Representatives have warned the gap could begin affecting services late next year.
Last week, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he is “working side-by-side with first responder unions, building trades and other worker advocates to secure the money needed to fully fund the program for all future participants and will look to pass it at the earliest opportunity.”
“Sen. Schumer has long championed securing the funds needed to provide quality health care for our 9/11 first responders, many of whom got sick years after their service,” said Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro.
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