Hundreds of mourners paid tribute Friday to 9/11 first responder Ray Pfeifer, a retired New York City firefighter who died Sunday as a result of an illness related to his work at Ground Zero.
Comedian Jon Stewart, who worked with Pfeifer to lobby Congress to pay health benefits for first responders with 9/11-related illnesses, choked back tears as he delivered the eulogy inside the Holy Family Church in Hicksville, Long Island.
“Ray would have loved a day like today,” with so many people “coming to pay respect for a man who did right,” Stewart said.
Pfeifer would wonder what all the fuss was about for someone who was “just a kid from Levittown,” he added. “It’s almost like he didn’t know how special he was.”
“Make no mistake, Ray Pfeifer died in the line of duty,” Stewart said. “But more importantly, Ray Pfeifer lived in the line of duty.”
Pfeifer was a first responder to the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He fought a yearslong battle with cancer linked to the months he spent working on the pile at Ground Zero.
Even as his health worsened, Pfeifer made more than a dozen trips to Washington, D.C., to push lawmakers to extend the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act, which provided health care for people with 9/11-related illnesses.
In honor of Pfeifer’s work on behalf of first responders, Mayor Bill de Blasio gave him a key to the city in 2016.
“He is going to be dearly, dearly missed,” de Blasio said Friday during his weekly appearance on WNYC radio.