FDNY loses 199th and 200th members to 9/11-related illnesses

FDNY members Richard Driscoll, left, and Kevin Nolan died this week of 9/11-related illnesses, the FDNY said Thursday.
FDNY members Richard Driscoll, left, and Kevin Nolan died this week of 9/11-related illnesses, the FDNY said Thursday. Photo Credit: (Credit too long, see caption)/Bryan Bedder

The FDNY is mourning the loss this week of two retired members who suffered from 9/11-related illnesses.

Kevin Nolan and Richard Driscoll are the 199th and 200th members of the FDNY to die of illnesses related to breathing in the toxic dust at Ground Zero following the terror attack that leveled the World Trade Center in 2001.

"It is almost incomprehensible that after losing 343 members on Sept. 11, we have now had 200 more FDNY members die due to World Trade Center illness. These heroes gave their lives bravely fighting to rescue and recover others. We will never forget them," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a statement Thursday.

Driscoll, a 32-year veteran of the department, passed away on Wednesday, according to an FDNY spokesman, the same day the Senate was blocked from voting on a bill that would ensure the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund doesn’t run out of money. The government program provides financial support to first responders, Ground Zero workers and others stricken with 9/11-related illnesses.

Nolan, who retired in 2007 after serving the FDNY for 18 years, died on Tuesday, the spokesman said. He began his career with Engine 39 on the Upper East Side, then transferred to Engine Company 79 in the Bronx before retiring.

Driscoll, a Vietnam War veteran who worked at Engine Company 91 in East Harlem until he retired in 2002, was cited for bravery five times over his career.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday urged the Senate to pass the Never Forget the Heroes Act, which would guarantee money for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund through 2090.

"Two-hundred members of the FDNY have now succumbed to WTC-related illness. They didn’t hesitate to run into danger. They stayed until the work was done," the mayor added.

The House passed the bill 402-12 on Friday, prompting New York lawmakers and advocates to urge the Senate into immediate action. The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation, as well as two proposed amendments, next week.

On Wednesday, bill sponsor Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) requested unanimous consent to pass the legislation; however, Sen. Rand Paul (R-K.Y.) objected on the grounds that it would add to the nation’s debt.

"Any new spending that we are approaching, any new program that will have the longevity of 70, 80 years should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable," Paul said. "We need at the very least to have this debate."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked Paul to withdraw the objection but the lawmaker refused. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) also declined a request to hold an immediate vote on the bill.

Gillibrand said she was "deeply disappointed" by Rand’s objection. "Enough of the political games,” she added.

Since the 9/11 terror attacks, more than 2,000 FDNY members and almost 1,000 NYPD personnel have been forced to retire due to illnesses related to Ground Zero, officials have said. More than 90,000 first responders and survivors from across the country stand to lose financial assistance if the fund is not replenished.

Officials who operate the fund had warned in February that they were running dangerously low on money and would be forced to cut payments to those suffering from 9/11-related illnesses. Last authorized in 2015, fund operators had already disbursed nearly $5 billion of its allotted $7.375 billion to over 21,000 people, officials had said in February.

With Tom Brune

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