First Responder Deaths From Post-9/11 Illnesses Nearly Equals Number Of Firefighters Who Died In Attacks, Officials Say

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The number of post-9/11 first responder deaths is now nearly equal to the number of firefighters who perished in the attacks, officials say.

The number of firefighters and paramedics killed on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, totaled 343 of the 2,753 victims. Ahead of the 22nd anniversary of the attacks, the FDNY added 43 more names to its memorial wall in New York City, according to a Sept. 5 press release. The number of first responders who died from post-9/11 illnesses now totals 341, CNN reported Monday, citing the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

Due to the toxic dust and pollutants released in the collapse of the Twin Towers and the aftermath of the attacks, firefighters and first responders who survived the initial attacks have found themselves battling cancers as well as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in the years since, according to the outlet.

“As we approach the 22nd anniversary of 9/11, the FDNY continues to feel the impact of that day. Each year, this memorial wall grows as we honor of those who gave their lives in service of others,” Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said of the names added to the memorial wall.

“These brave men and women showed up that day, and in the days and months following the attacks to participate in the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site. We will never forget them,” Kavanagh continued.

In the aftermath of the deadly terror attacks, more than 410,000 first responders spent days and weeks inhaling toxic materials as they continued their work around Ground Zero. Since 9/11, more than 5,000 individuals have succumbed to post-9/11 illnesses, on top of the nearly 3,000 lives lost on the day of the terror attacks itself, according to CBS News. Many of those 5,000 lived, worked or attended school near the crash site. (RELATED: CLANCY: As We Remember The Fallen Of 9/11, Let Us Recall The Immortal Words Of President Reagan)

“There’s now over 27,000 certified people with a 9/11-certified cancer,” 9/11 responder advocate John Feal told the outlet.

Feal, who spent 11 weeks in the hospital after 8,000 pounds of steel crushed his foot while working at Ground Zero, told CBS that while his own injury was “gruesome and horrific,” it was nothing compared to those who have fallen ill and died from their efforts.

“We have an obligation to continue to tell those stories of those who get sick and die,” Feal said, telling the outlet he was prompted to become an advocate for 9/11 first responders after working hard to secure his own benefits. “Three hundred and fifty-plus trips to D.C., over 2,300 meetings. … The bills we got passed in Congress don’t save lives, but it gives people a fighting chance.”