9/11 first responders, along with Dr. Jacqueline Moline,
discuss the tragic events of that fateful day 13 years ago.
From left to right: Moline, John Licato, Christian Foggy,
Joe Ramondino and Patricia Workman.
BY LUIS GRONDA
As the 13th anniversary of 9/11 passes, four first responders gathered in Rego Park on Tuesday to remember that tragic day and discuss the health issues they have been battling as a result of being at Ground Zero.
The first responders, all of whom are Queens residents, sat down at North Shore-LIJ’s Queens WTC Clinical Center of Excellence to share their personal stories and talk about the treatment they have received at the center as a result of the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
The four first responders at the press conference were: Patricia Workman, 76, from Flushing, Joe Ramondino, 52, who lives in Maspeth, Christian Foggy, 67, a Jamaica resident and John Licato, who resides in Howard Beach.
Workman was a Red Cross volunteer at the time the planes crashed into the Twin Towers. She spent two years providing assistance to other first responders. In 2008, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma after she asked for treatment for several fractures and other health concerns.
Ramondino was at Ground Zero for two months, lending a helping hand to whatever was needed, including joining the bucket brigade to help remove buckets of debris from the site. He was diagnosed with lymphoma last year and has been a patient at the center since earlier this year.
Foggy was an NYPD electrician during that time. He spent about two months helping transport electric generators to Ground Zero and connecting light and other needs to that area. Foggy was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012, but was declared cancer-free in 2013.
Licato is now a retired NYPD officer, but during that time, he was in the 110th Precinct in Corona. He was at Ground Zero for several months. In 2012, he felt a lump on his neck. A few months later, he was diagnosed with neck cancer. Licato has been a patient at the center for just more than a year.
At the press conference, Dr. Jacqueline Moline, the Vice President and Chairperson of population health at the hospital, said the work they do at the center is their way of giving back to the people who put their lives on the line to try to help people in a terrible situation.
“We had selfless individuals, thousands upon thousands of folks, be volunteers and all they thought about was getting involved in the rescue and recovery efforts,” she said.
The quartet described how they felt when they were first diagnosed with their diseases.
“When you hear that ‘c’ word, it’s a life changing diagnosis. It’s a life changing word,” Licato said, referring to his neck cancer. “I’m saying, ‘my god I’m 50 years old and I’m going to die.’ It’s just not supposed to happen, you’re supposed to live another 20 to 30 years.”
Ramondino described getting that news as “devastating” but also had a more positive outlook on his situation.
“It’s just something you have to accept and move on with it. Things could always be worse,” he said. “We’re still here. A lot of people lost their lives that day. We’re the lucky ones.”
They were also asked if they had any sort of regret about going to Ground Zero considering the diseases they are battling now. In hindsight, they all said they would do it again.
“I’m sure all of us would respond again in the same way because that’s what we were there for,” Foggy said. “Whenever there’s a situation such as the worst of human behavior, from that moment on, you saw the best of human behavior, where everybody came together.”
The day after the press conference, Workman was scheduled to go to Washington D.C. to testify before a congressional committee on 9/11-related illnesses. She said she planned on relaying her story about her illness and urged lawmakers to continue funding for programs like the WTC center at North Shore-LIJ.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @luisgronda.