Raymond J. Pfeifer, who spent eight months working through the debris of the collapsed World Trade Center for the remains of victims and years fighting for health benefits for survivors, died on Sunday in a hospice in Port Washington, New York. He was 59.
Raymond Pfeifer Cause of Death
Pfeifer died as the result from complications of cancers he contracted while scouring the toxic Lower Manhattan site following 9/11, his wife Caryn said.
“I’m being poisoned, and I’m dying, every single day, because of terrorism,” Mr. Pfeifer told WPIX-TV in 2014.
But unlike the 343 firefighters who died on September 11, 2001, “I’m a very lucky man,” he said.
“My friends were murdered on 9/11,” he added. “From the 12th on, from that day on, I’m still here. I’m very lucky. I got to watch my kids grow up.”
In 2009, Pfeifer discovered a strange pain in his left leg was a baseball-sized tumor that had broken his hip and developed into Stage 4 kidney cancer. He underwent surgery 48 hours later. A tragic deluge of medical issues followed, including hip, femur and knee replacements and the removal of a kidney. He also had a heart attack after being weakened by chemotherapy.
Though his health was worsening, Pfeifer continued to fight for health care benefits to be extended for emergency workers and survivors of the 9/11 attacks.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act – named for a New York City detective whose death from respiratory causes at 34 was linked by supporters of the bill to the World Trade Center attacks – would have expired in 2015 if not for the work of a coalition that included Pfeifer and comedian Jon Stewart, among others.
“I was just the poster boy,” Mr. Pfeifer said of his role in the lobbying effort.
Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro paid his respects, saying: “Ray Pfeifer was a true fighter who bravely battled fires as a New York City firefighter and fought tirelessly for all first responders who — like him — suffered from World Trade Center-related illness.”
Mayor Bill de Blasi, who presented Pfeifer with a key to the city in 2016, also credited the firefighter for inspiring other survivors to “get to wake up in the morning and not have that horrible, pervasive worry about their future.”
“They don’t have to wonder what’s going to happen next to them and their families because they did the right thing when it was their moment to stand up,” the mayor said.