NEW YORK — For ailing 9/11 rescue workers the evening was bittersweet as some received their first compensation checks and the group suffered its biggest death toll — nine first responders died from cancer and respiratory diseases this month.
Wednesday, several hundred NYPD, FDNY, volunteers and lower Manhattan workers and residents attended a public forum to apply for the $2.8 billion victims compensation fund at Baruch College in Manhattan.
AnneMarie Bowmann, senior vice president of the FealGood Foundation, which lobbied Washington to approve the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, said this month’s deaths “are our biggest hit. Right now there are at least 1,100 people who we know of that have died. We can’t give up until everyone is helped.”
Fifteen compensation awards — ranging from $10,000 to $1.5 million — have been mailed to 14 firefighters and a correction officer. More than 16,000 people have applied.
Retired NYPD Officer Michael Divirgilio, 54, of Malverne, said he suffers from constant sinus infections that have required surgery. He lives under a regimen of antibiotics, rinses and eye pain.
“I’m here to get more information and try to get my medical and financial issues taken care of,” said Divirgilio, who became ill soon after working for a year on the pile, first doing search and rescue, and later recovering remains.
Divirgilio started the application process a year ago and does not know if he is eligible. “I am constantly giving double paperwork,” he said.