911 Responders Urged To Sign Up With WTC Heath Program

Reporter Gwendolyn Craig writes in The Post-Star about retired NYPD Detective Dennis Murphy who has 9/11-related neck, throat and tongue cancer. Murphy has 9-11 related cancer from the time he spent in search and rescue in the days following the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

The majority of 9/11 first responders were not protected from the chemicals, dust and debris they were exposed to while they performed their heroic work during the months following the attacks. Many of them have since developed all kinds of serious illnesses related to the toxic cocktail that was present at Ground Zero and in Lower Manhattan. Many continued to live and work in the Lower Manhattan area affected by the attacks while other first responders, including Dennis Murphy moved upstate. 

Dennis registered with the World Trade Center Health Program in 2004, but it wasn’t until April of 2017 that he received a cancer diagnosis. Many 9/11-related cancers have long latency periods (time from exposure to the carcinogen to development of the disease) and victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks continue to be diagnosed today at an alarming rate. Dennis travels to the Queens World Trade Center Clinical Center of Excellence - a WTCHP clinic, to receive his cancer treatments. He has also begun volunteering there. 

As part of his volunteer work, Murphy makes phone calls urging other first responders to sign up with the WTCHP and to remind others to have their medical screenings performed. He has encouraged over 100 people to register for the program.

The administrative director of the Queens World Trade Center Health Program, Lauri Boni notes that many 9/11 first responders typically are not going in for medical screenings and some have been living with “World Trade Center Cough,” so long, they aren’t even aware of it anymore.

I think if you look at the demographics of the responder population, they’re a robust, working-class population, who has not in their history been very dependent on health care services,” she said. “They don’t necessarily understand the ideas of prevention and treatment. They’ve been very healthy.
— Lauri Boni

Dennis Murphy is an excellent example of why monitoring is so important. While he registered early on in 2004, his cancer didn’t appear for 13 more years.

The Post-Star article shares some WTCHP statistics, “As of June 2018, just under 72,000 first responders have enrolled in the program, along with about 16,600 survivors, according to the program’s website. About 32 percent of responders enrolled are between the ages of 45 and 54. The second greatest percentage of responders are between the ages of 55 and 64, at 26 percent of those enrolled. Most are men, at 71 percent.”

While many of us think of first responders as police and firefighters, there were many other jobs being performed following the attacks that are considered first responder roles. Both Lauri Boni and Dennis Murphy point out in the Post-Star article that there were “construction workers, sanitation workers, news reporters, (and) Department of Transportation staff” who were also at risk from the exposure to the toxic dust and debris in the Ground Zero area and they are all covered by the program. 

Murphy has an optimistic attitude helping to fuel him along as he fights his 9/11-related illness and spreads the word about the WTCHP.

The program is basically, it’s kept me alive for the last 17 months,” he said. “. . . my main mission since getting diagnosed is getting the word out to others, the importance of medical monitoring. I can’t say that enough.”
— Dennis Murphy, Retired NYPD Detective